If you are found to have prostate cancer, your doctor will discuss your options with you. You need to know what treatments are available, what the risks of side effects are and which treatment offers you the best hope of a cure.
Prostate cancer is described by medical personnel in 4 different stages.
Stage T1 is virtually impossible to detect as there are no physical symptoms. Only a blood test for prostate specific antigen, or PSA, can point to a case of prostate cancer in its first stage. Even then, a biopsy must be performed on a tissue sample removed from your body for a conclusive finding.
Stage T2 is when the first physical signs and symptoms appear. During a digital rectal exam, your doctor may find regions of your prostate that are harder than is natural. You may also begin to experience some of the symptoms that you should be watching out for as you pass the age of 50.
- A burning sensation while urinating
- Pain or burning during ejaculation
- Inability to urinate
- Stoppages in urine flow
- A frequent need to urinate, especially through the night
- Difficulty in starting, stopping or controlling urine flow
If you experience any or all of these symptoms, speak to your doctor about getting tested. The symptoms may be due to prostate cancer, but could also be due to a different medical issue.
Stage T3 means the prostate cancer has invaded the tissue immediately surrounding the prostate gland. This type of cancer is well advanced.
Stage T4 is the most advanced stage where the cancer has invaded your bladder or rectum or both. It may also have reached into the bone. This cancer is in its final stages.
There is no cure for prostate cancer after it has reached stage T4. The only treatments available after this point are designed to slow the cancer’s growth and to help improve your quality of life.
Stages T1 and T2 are the stages at which treatments are more effective and a cure is not only possible but probable. In fact, cure rates are as high as 90% with stage T1 prostate cancer.
Prostate Cancer Treatment Options
The treatments available for cancer of the prostate are many and varied:
Surgery is the option that has been used very effectively over many decades. Your prostate is removed, in whole or in part, while you are put under general anesthetic. A hospital stay is required and some of the side effects are radical. Impotence and urinary incontinence are common side effects from surgery. Surgery itself presents risks, and quality of life is often negatively impacted.
Radiotherapy can be applied in 2 ways. The first is external beam radiation therapy, where a radioactive source is pointed at your prostate to burn away the cancer cells. The second is to implant several radioactive seeds with a series of injections, usually as many as 40. Both methods have been proven effective, but impotence, radiation burns and chronic pain in the pelvis are typical side effects. Most patients report a decline in their quality of life.
Ablatherm HIFU is the newest weapon in the battle against prostate cancer. It uses focused sound waves to heat and destroy cancerous cells. The procedure is precisely guided by an MRI to affect only those cells that have been found to be diseased and leaves the surrounding tissue intact.
Side effects from this procedure have been proven to be minimal and not as radical as more traditional treatments. The non-invasive procedure is done on an out-patient basis under the care of a urological surgeon. The procedure lasts 2-3 hours and quality of life is maintained.