Every year, over 40,000 men die from prostate cancer, making it the second most fatal cancer in men. In fact, one in six American men will be given a prostate cancer diagnosis at some point during their lifetime. While the average age of diagnosis is 71, men of any age can be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Age is one of the main factors affecting treatment options, along with the stage the cancer is found at and the general health of the patient. For those younger men who are diagnosed with early prostate cancer, a prostatectomy can be a very effective treatment.
A prostatectomy is the removal of part or all of the prostate gland. A prostatectomy is usually only indicated in those cases where the cancer has not spread beyond the prostate gland. The goal of the prostatectomy, in such cases, is to remove the entire tumor and stop any potential spread of the cancer. Sometimes a prostatectomy may be followed by radiation to ensure no cancer cells remain in any of the surrounding tissues.
While the basic concept of removal of the prostate gland is standard, there are several different surgical options for prostatectomy. The general risks for prostatectomy are also considered standard, though some of the surgeries aim to reduce those risks. The main risks associated with a prostatectomy are incontinence, impotency and blood loss. Fortunately, full incontinence is very rare and most men under 50 regain full sexual function after a prostatectomy - another reason this treatment is recommended for younger men.
One of the conventional prostatectomy techniques is the retropubic or suprapubic prostatectomy. In this type of surgery, an incision is made in the lower abdomen so the prostate gland, and possibly the surrounding lymph nodes, can be removed. This requires a larger incision than some other techniques and usually results in a 4 to 6 day hospital stay following the surgery. Another open incision technique is the perineal prostatectomy. In this surgery, an incision is made between the rectum and the scrotum through which the prostate gland is removed. Again, this surgery usually results in a 4 to 6 day hospital stay. A newer technique that is less invasive is the transurethral prostatectomy. In this procedure, a cytoscope is inserted in the urethra to the prostate gland and tiny surgical tools are used to snip away the prostate. This still results in a several day hospital stay, but the risk of incontinence is reduced.
The latest innovation in prostatectomy is the robotic prostatectomy. Here a robotic surgical instrument is used by the surgeon to remove the prostate. The robotic prostatectomy is considered to be minimally invasive. Furthermore, urinary control and sexual function have been shown to return more quickly and in a higher percentage of patients with this technique. Eighty-percent of men return to full urinary control within three months and ninety-four percent within a year. In terms of sexual function, fifty percent of men regained erection within three months, while eighty-percent regained full erection within eight months.
While it is important to research your options, only you and your doctors can make the final decision as to which prostatectomy surgery is right for you.