Prostate cancer will affect one in every six men at some point during their lifetime. Most prostate cancers occur in the glandular cells of the prostate, so they are considered prostate adenocarcinomas. The majority of prostate cancer treatments focus on prostate adenocarcinoma treatment and targeting the characteristics specific to adenocarcinomas.
One of the main characteristics of prostate adenocarcinomas is that they are slow growing. Therefore, one of the main prostate adenocarcinoma treatment options is called watchful waiting. Watchful waiting is really just the process of monitoring the growth of the tumor and PSA levels. If significant changes are seen in the growth of the tumor or PSA levels, more aggressive prostate adenocarcinoma treatment is usually pursued.
One of the more aggressive prostate adenocarcinoma treatment options is surgical removal of the prostate. Prostatectomy has a relatively high success rate in curing the cancer when the tumor is confined to the prostate and has not spread. While older surgical techniques for adenocarcinoma treatment are associated with higher levels of incontinence and impotence, newer techniques are reducing those risks. The use of robotic surgical instruments in adenocarcinoma treatment surgeries has been shown to be as successful as traditional techniques, while returning 96% of men to full urinary control within a year and 80% to erectile function within 8 months.
While surgery is usually reserved for those whose cancer has not spread, prostate radiotherapy can be used in cases where the cancer has spread to the local tissues, as well as cases where it has not spread at all. There are two types of prostate radiotherapy, external beam radiation and brachytherapy (or internal radiation). Both are equally effective, but have their own side effects and risks.
External beam prostate radiotherapy is similar to a high-intensity x-ray. Radiation is focused on the prostate gland from a source outside the body. Treatments are usually given five days a week over a period of 8 to 9 weeks. The treatments are relatively short and are done on an outpatient basis, allowing most patients to continue their normal activities during the treatment period. This form of adenocarcinoma treatment is non-invasive and is equally effective as prostatectomy, which is why some people choose it over the surgery. It is not, however, without side effects.
Side effects from external beam prostate radiotherapy range from bowel problems to bladder problems to impotence. These side effects occur because other cells in the area of the prostate can be affected by the radiation. As far as bowel side effects, some patients experience diarrhea, leakage and an irritated large intestine. Sometimes, normal function does not return even after treatment ends. The bladder side effects include frequent urination, burning and blood in the urine. Like the bowel problems, some patients do not get relief upon cessation of the radiation. Furthermore, between two and five percent of patients report long-term use of absorbent pads for incontinence. As far as erectile function goes, impotence often occurs after the radiation therapy is completed. In fact, over seventy-five percent of prostate radiotherapy patients are considered impotent within five years of the treatment.
In the other form of prostate radiotherapy, brachytherapy, the radioactive material is actually inserted into the prostate. It is often reserved for those patients with slow growing, early stage adenocarcinoma. Brachytherapy carries similar risks in terms of bowel and bladder side effects as external beam radiotherapy, but studies have shown it has the lowest risk of impotence over five years following treatment.
Being informed about your treatment options is key when facing any illness. However, only your doctor can recommend the best treatment for your type of cancer, so be sure to keep an open mind when discussing your options.