The symptoms have been present for some time, your tests have come in and you are in the doctor’s office and have just been told that you have prostate cancer. After a few minutes of silence and it begins to settle in you understand that there has to be more to talk about and so the conversation starts out with “…and now what do we do.” Your physician sends you to an oncologist.
You start to listen to the list of options available to you for your treatment plan. If the cancer is believed to be local then there are 5 common treatment options for the patient:
- A surgical procedure – radical prostatectomy. This means that the prostate gland will be completely removed.
- Radiation of the cancerous prostate.
- Freezing of the cancerous prostate (cryotherapy).
- Hormonal therapy in addition to radiation and/or chemotherapy or cryotherapy options.
- Observation (waiting) to see if it grows larger or the symptoms become worse or you wish to wait on any type of treatment and would like to get a second opinion.
This is also the time you may find yourself looking up the various side effects for the different treatments that were just offered. One reason is so you will know what to expect if you decide to go forward and the next is if you work you can allow time for treatments and any additional that may be needed immediately following the option of treatment you have chosen.
The most effective ways
The statistics have shown that for prostate cancer, the most common practice used, which is considered the best prostate cancer treatment is provided in three parts, for your treatment plan. Of course, none of these are taken lightly, but, have been the most effective over time.
The first in the three-part series is a trial of radiation therapy to see if the tumor can be shrunk, the second step is chemotherapy which is stronger drugs that breakdown the cancers cells and destroy them, and the third is a surgical procedure known as a partial or total removal of the prostate, called a prostatectomy. Although due to the nature of this surgery it may leave patients with urinary problems or sexual dysfunction.
Prostate cancer radiation treatment
The first step mentioned was radiation therapy which is an external x-ray beam that goes straight into the diseased site. The treatment plan discusses how many times the patient comes in to have this done over a period of time.
The external beam would be used if the disease had spread and is covering a wider area in the pelvis region. Radiation therapy is also used to help shrink the tumor to assist with pain control. What is important is to know some facts about radiation therapy and that is it may and can cause long term damage. Some areas that could be affected are nerves. The other disadvantage is it may cause damage to other important areas and you may end up with sexual or erectile dysfunction.
The brachytherapy mentioned is a process of planting radioactive prostate seed implants, which are very small, they cause no discomfort and is done under local anesthesia and placed with the assistance of a CAT scan, MRI or Ultrasound equipment. Sometimes the combined methods, the radiation, and brachytherapy are used, as part of your treatment plan. The question often asked is “Will the patient become radioactive if the seeds are used and the answer is – No”. Normally the prostate seed implants are used if the cancer is localized and has not spread beyond the gland, to another region. The procedure takes less time and the patient visits the doctor’s office more than the hospital to have the treatment completed.
So, of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to both types of treatment and again the staging of the disease and location of the disease becomes important when deciding on which option may work better for you. This does give you some options and it is the options that everyone looks for when they have been given this diagnosis. It is the treatment plan that you look for and what will provide you the best results in the end.
The second step mentioned was the chemotherapy, these are much stronger drugs administered to the patient that target the cancer cells in the body. They also break down the immune system of the body.
The third step is the surgical procedure mentioned above known as the partial or total removal of the prostate, called a prostatectomy. A combination of all three has been the proven method of the past to have the best results.
As in any case, any of the methods mentioned above come with side effects that will most likely cause you to take additional medicine. For example, hormone therapy will most likely be recommended, at the end of your treatment plan. This will be due to the nature of the surgery. Your body will no longer produce certain hormones and hormone therapy will replace what is missing.
There is also the healing process after any type of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy treatments you just went through. Your body needs a chance to heal from all of this and allow yourself a chance to recharge your body. Then there is the observation for any reoccurrence so it can be caught early.