Treating Prostate Cancer
Knowing the various treatments for prostate cancer available and what the risks associated with each are is the first step in being informed about what will be one of the most important decisions of your life. The potential side effects of some of the treatments are too life altering to leave this decision to chance.
Have a discussion with your doctor. Ask questions about any side effects you need to be aware of. While your treatment options become less viable if your cancer has progressed beyond your prostate gland, it is important to be aware of what to expect after the treatment has been completed.
Here are some of the options open to you.
Surgical options available are as follows.
- A complete prostatectomy where your entire prostate gland is removed
- A lymph node dissection where only the nodes surrounding the urethra are removed
- A transurethral resection is done in which small pieces of your prostate are removed
Each of the above procedures requires a hospital stay and you would be anesthetized and put under. They are effective in most cases although cancers have been known to return weeks or months afterward. As well, side effects can include urinary incontinence, impotence and infertility.
There are 2 common approaches to radiation therapy in treating prostate cancer, external beam radiotherapy and brachytherapy.
External beam radiotherapy is a procedure where a high energy radioactive source is used to project a beam at your prostate from a short distance outside your pelvic area. There is no anesthesia required and it is done on an out-patient basis. It is typically done on 5 consecutive days over a period of about 5 to 7 weeks.
Brachytherapy is the usage of about 100 to 150 small radioactive pellets or seeds. They are placed directly into your prostate with a syringe a few at a time; it usually takes up to 40 injections to implant them all. This procedure is painful and requires a general anesthetic.
These two procedures use radioactivity to burn away cancerous cells. Side effects include impotence, inflammation of the bladder and rectum. Cancers have also been known to return.
Drugs known to be toxic to cancerous cells are introduced to your body. It is used to slow cancerous growths and relieve pain. It is not a cure but it can be used to help patients where cures through other means are not possible.
High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU)
HIFU is a procedure that uses sound waves to destroy cancerous cells. A focused ultrasound beam is aimed only at the regions of the prostate that are diseased with cancer. The cells targeted are destroyed using heat. Surrounding tissue is not affected by the beam and remains undamaged.
The entire prostate can be exposed to the ultrasound beam in about three hours. The procedure is done quickly and is effective in eradicating prostate cancer in over 90% of patients treated. Side effects are minimal resulting in urinary incontinence in only 5% of patients. Only 8% suffered urethral blockage and about 40% suffered sexual impotence. Impotence drops to 20% in patients whose cancer does not affect the prostate nerve.