Treatment Overview Of Prostate Cancer
How Cancer of the Prostate is Treated
There are treatments for all patients with cancer of the prostate. Three kinds of treatment are commonly used:
- surgery (taking out the cancer cells)
- radiation therapy (using high-dose x-rays or other high-energy rays to kill cancer cells)
- hormone therapy (using hormones to stop cancer cells from growing).
The use of chemotherapy (using drugs to kill cancer cells) and biological therapy (using your body's immune system to fight cancer) in prostate cancer is being studied in clinical trials.
Surgery is a common treatment for cancer of the prostate. Your doctor may take out the cancer cells using one of the following operations:
Radical Prostatectomy Procedure
Radical prostatectomy removes the prostate and some of the tissue around it. Your doctor may do the surgery by cutting into the space between the scrotum and the anus (the perineum) in an operation called a perineal prostatectomy or by cutting into the lower abdomen in an operation called a retropubic prostatectomy. Radical prostatectomy is done only if the cancer has not spread outside the prostate. Often, before the prostatectomy is done, your doctor will do surgery to take out lymph nodes in the pelvis to see if they contain cancer cells. This is called a pelvic lymph node dissection. If the lymph nodes contain cancer cells, usually your doctor will not do a prostatectomy, and may or may not recommend other therapy at this time. Impotence can occur in men treated with surgery.
Transurethral resection cuts cancer cells from the prostate using a tool with a small wire loop on the end that is put into the prostate through the urethra. This operation is sometimes done to relieve symptoms caused by the tumor before other treatment or in men who cannot have a radical prostatectomy because of age or other illness.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external radiation therapy) or from putting materials that produce radiation (radioisotopes) through thin plastic tubes in the area where the cancer cells are found (internal radiation therapy). Impotence may occur in men treated with radiation therapy.
Hormone therapy uses hormones to stop cancer cells from growing. Hormone therapy for prostate cancer can take several forms. Male hormones (especially testosterone) can help prostate cancer grow. To stop the cancer from growing, female hormones or drugs that decrease the amount of male hormones made may be given. Sometimes an operation to remove the testicles (orchiectomy) is done to stop the testicles from making testosterone. This treatment is usually used in men with advanced prostate cancer. Growth of breast tissue is a common side effect of therapy with female hormones (estrogens); hot flashes can occur after an orchiectomy and other hormone therapies.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be taken by pill, or it may be put into the body by a needle in the vein or muscle. Chemotherapy is called a systemic treatment because the drug enters the bloodstream, travels through the body, and can kill cancer cells outside the prostate. To date, chemotherapy has not had significant value in treating prostate cancer, but clinical trials are in progress to find more effective drugs.
Biological therapy tries to get your own body to fight cancer. It uses materials made by your own body or made in a laboratory to boost, direct, or restore your body's natural defenses against disease. Biological therapy is sometimes called biological response modifier (BRM) therapy or immunotherapy.
Treatment by Stage
Treatment of cancer of the prostate depends on the stage of your disease, your age, and your overall condition. If you do not have any symptoms, your doctor may follow you closely without any treatment if you are older or if you have another more serious illness.
You may receive treatment that is considered standard based on its effectiveness in a number of patients in past studies, or you may choose to go into a clinical trial. Not all patients are cured with standard therapy and some standard treatments may have more side effects than are desired. For these reasons, clinical trials are designed to find better ways to treat cancer patients and are based on the most up-to-date information. Clinical trials are going on in most parts of the country for most stages of cancer of the prostate. If you want more information, call the Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).
Reprinted with permission from Dialog Medical, dialogmedical.com
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