Prostate cancer is now the most common cancer affecting North American men. Over 180,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in the U.S. this year alone. In Canada, approximately 25,500 men will be diagnosed. It is estimated that 4,300 of those men will die from the disease, as it is the third leading cause of death among cancers.
The prostate is a chestnut size gland that is located in front of the rectum, behind the bladder. The prostate produces the majority of the seminal fluid that is used to transport sperm. There are no obvious signs of prostate cancer when it is in the early stages, and it may develop slowly at first. Early detection is crucial since the cure rate is much higher for early stages of the disease. Annual screenings are recommended for men over 50 years of age, or earlier for younger men if there is a history of prostate cancer in the family.
Prostate cancer occurs when cells do not follow the normal cycle of dividing, maturing and then dying, but outlive normal cells and form new, abnormal cells. These abnormal cell growths are called tumors. In order to determine the best course of treatment and the likelihood of a successful treatment outcome, urologists will perform a biopsy and assign a stage to describe the cancer. The stages are classified according to T-N-M (tumor-nodal metastasis and other metastasis). The stages indicate the size and number of the tumors, and if the diseases has spread beyond the prostate. The earliest stage (T-1) has a 90% or higher cure rate. The highest stage (T-4) responds poorly to all forms of treatment as the disease is locally extensive. Therefore, early screening and treatment is the key to success.
If you have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, you will need to consider your treatment options. The best option for you will vary depending on your age, health and personal preferences. The most common traditional options are radiation and surgery (radical prostatectomy). These options can be very hard on the body, with longer recuperation times and possible side effects including impotency and incontinence. Other non-surgical prostate cancer treatment options include hormone therapy, chemotherapy, brachytherapy and cryotherapy. Another one of the newer treatment options that is gaining favor with urologists and patients is HIFU or High Intensity Focused Ultrasound.
With HIFU, ultrasound waves are delivered with pinpoint accuracy to heat and destroy tumors on the prostate. The procedure lasts approximately 2-3 hours and is out-patient based. Since it is non-surgical and non-invasive, recovery is faster and there are fewer side effects. Success rates compare favorably to surgery and radiation. HIFU is not available in the U.S., but it is available in Canada and Europe. The first HIFU clinic was opened in Toronto in 2005, shortly after Health Canada approved the treatment in 2003. The Maple Leaf HIFU clinic in Toronto has treated over 700 patients, more than any other North American clinic. Over 30,000 men have been treated by HIFU worldwide. There are now documented clinical studies and research that date back over the past decade showing success rates for Ablatherm HIFU that are favorable to those of radical prostatectomy or radiation.
The best choice of treatment will also depend on your health, age, any prior treatments and lifestyle, as well as insurance and finances. If you have prostate cancer, learn more about surviving prostate cancer and the treatment options available to you by doing your research online and discussing options with your urologist and loved ones.