Prostate cancer will affect one in six American men at some point during their lifetime. In terms of prostate cancer epidemiology, most men have an 8% risk of developing the disease, and African American men are at an increased 9.5% risk. Fortunately, much research on prostate cancer has been done and the options for treatment of prostate cancer are varied. Even if the cancer is too advanced to be treated with traditional methods, there are palliative care program options to help maintain and/or improve a patient's quality of life.
The treatment of prostate cancer depends mostly upon the stage of the cancer. Early-stage cancer can be treated with a radical prostatectomy, radiation therapy or watchful waiting. Early-stage prostate cancer is generally defined as prostate cancer that has not spread beyond the edge of the prostate. One of the most effective options for the treatment of prostate cancer is radical prostatectomy, the surgical removal of the prostate gland and surrounding tissue. There are different options for radical prostatectomies, based mainly on the surgical technique. The newest surgeries are aimed at reducing the risk of such side effects as incontinence and impotence.
Another early stage treatment of prostate cancer is radiation therapy. This can be done with either external x-ray beams or with internal radiation seeds implanted in the prostate. The goal is to destroy the cancerous tissue and the prostate as a whole. While radiation is just as effective as surgical removal of the prostate, it does have a higher incidence of impotence. The final common option for the treatment of prostate cancer in its early stages is watchful waiting. Watchful waiting is simply the close observation of the cancer's progress, with no active treatment until symptoms are felt or the cancer progresses.
For the treatment of prostate cancer in advanced stages, where the cancer has spread beyond the edge of the prostate to other parts of the body, there are also three main courses of action. Like early stage prostate cancer, radiation therapy can be used to destroy the cancerous tissue, both in the prostate and in the areas it has spread to. Another option is hormone therapy. In hormone therapy as a treatment for prostate cancer, certain drugs are used to block or inhibit the action of testosterone, which causes prostate cancer cells to grow. While drugs are most often used for this purpose, another option is the surgical removal of the testicles, which produce the body's testosterone. Finally, the systemic treatment used for many other cancers, chemotherapy, can also be used in the treatment of prostate cancer.
While many cases of prostate cancer can be effectively treated or even cured, some advanced cases cannot. In these cases, the goal is to maintain or improve the patient's quality of life as much as possible. When advanced prostate cancer spreads, it often spreads to the bone, which can be very painful. In these cases, putting together a palliative care program to reduce pain can be vital. Radiotherapy has been shown to be very effective in the palliative care of metastatic bone lesions, and is therefore a mainstay of most palliative care program plans.
From watchful waiting to surgery to palliative care, there are many options for the treatment of prostate cancer, regardless of stage. If you are faced with making a treatment decision, keep in mind that only your doctor can recommend the course of treatment best for you and your unique situation.