Prostate Cancer Stages
You may wonder whether your treatment options vary depending on far advanced your prostate cancer might be. The truth is, if your cancer has grown beyond the confines of your prostate gland, there is no currently known cure.
Prostate cancer is defined in 4 stages called T1, T2, T3 and T4.
Stage T1 is when the disease is beginning. Only a blood test for PSA levels followed by a biopsy on some prostate tissue will discover whether cancer has taken root in your prostate gland.
Stage T2 is when the first signs and symptoms will appear. Your doctor may find a hard area on your prostate through a digital rectal exam. You may experience bladder problems like difficulties in controlling urination. You may find blood in urine or semen. You may feel pain or burning during urination or orgasm. (Note that these can be due to other medical conditions and not cancer.) Tests will tell how many tumors there are and whether the prostate is enlarged.
Stage T3 is the point at which the cancer has spread outside the prostate gland. Typically it will take residence in the seminal vesicles at this stage.
T4 is the final stage and the one with the most radical symptoms including fatigue, anemia and many difficulties with passing waste through urine or feces.
What Are My Treatment Options?
Your options for treatment have a good chance of a cure provided you catch it in stage T1 or T2. If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer your doctor will discuss those options with you. Those options include surgery, radiotherapy, cryotherapy or HIFU.
The most common surgical option recommended is a prostatectomy where your prostate gland is removed entirely. Some men may not be candidates for surgery due to age or health.
Radiotherapy can be done with an external beam where a radioactive source is aimed at your prostate from outside or with a number of small radioactive seeds implanted directly into your prostate. Both of these procedures use the same principle of burning away diseased tissue with radioactivity.
Cryotherapy is a procedure where your prostate is frozen and then thawed. The tissue in your gland cannot survive the temperature changes and the cancerous cells are killed.
HIFU stands for High Intensity Focused Ultrasound. Sound waves are focused and aimed at cancerous tissue within your prostate. When they strike the tissue, the cells are heated and the cancer cells are destroyed. This non-surgical treatment is done on an out-patient basis and results in fewer significant side effects than the other treatments.
Watching and Waiting
An option your doctor may recommend even if cancer has been verified is to watch and wait; your cancer is monitored to determine how aggressive it is while a final decision is made as to your best treatment option. This may be done if there are medical complications that would affect your ability to recover from some treatments, especially options like surgery or radiotherapy. It may also be done if you’re having difficulty giving consent for a treatment your doctor has prescribed. If the cancer is aggressive, this will not be an option.
Making the Decision
While your doctor will recommend the best treatment option for you, the final decision on that treatment rests with you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or suggest treatments you doctor may have overlooked or is simply not aware of.