Prostate cancer is a serious condition that needs to be handled carefully. Rather than trying to find the quickest way to get rid of the disease, individuals diagnosed with it would need to sit down with their doctor and talk about the best form of treatment that would help cure the condition without causing any physical and mental harm to the body in the process.
With prostate cancer, it is always considered better to get a second opinion on both diagnosis and treatment. Different doctors would offer different kinds of treatments to combat the condition. And this would enable the individual in question to choose the treatment that best fits his/her needs. Having an in depth understanding of how the different treatment plans work in addition to that risks and side effects they cause could help the individual and his/her doctor arrive at an effective, mutual decision quickly.
Different Treatment Options For Prostate Cancer
Given below are some of the more common treatment plans often prescribed for prostate cancer. The specific treatment plan chosen for an individual would depend on certain factors like his/her age and life span (an approximate measure), the stage (including the grade) of the cancer, existing medical ailments, the effectiveness of the chosen treatment (an approximate measure), the risks and complications involved and personal preferences etc.The treatment options for prostate cancer include:
Expectant Management Period
Also called as the Active Surveillance Period, the Watchful Waiting Period or deferred therapy, this treatment plan would involve waiting for a certain period of time and monitoring the cancerous growth regularly to check for progression.
In this case, the individual would be asked to wait for a few weeks or months during which he/she would need to undergo routine tests to check whether the cancer is spreading or not. Insignificant cases of prostate cancer are often left alone to disappear with time. Active treatment for the disease is started only if regular follow up tests show the disease progressing to the next stage or indicate the possibility of it spreading to other parts of the body.
Surgical Options For Prostate Cancer
Surgical options for prostate cancer are usually recommended after taking into consideration basic facts like the general prognosis, the grade of the cancer, the size of the cancer, the intensity of progression, health of the individual and personal preferences. Accordingly, the different types of surgical options available for prostate cancer include:
(TUR) – Transurethral Resection
A prostate TUR involves inserting a very thin tube into the penis and through the urethra to the prostate gland. The cancerous growth is then removed via urination.
This procedure is recommended in cases there the cancerous growth hinders with urination. Although it would not offer a complete cure from prostate cancer, it can alleviate the symptoms of the condition to a great extent.
Removal Of The Testicles
Also called as Orchiectomy, the removal of the testicles (both of them) is initiated in cases where the cancerous growth is local and is in its advanced stage (referred to as ‘locally advanced cancer’). Orchiectomy is also preferred in cases where the testicles produce excess testosterone which in turn aid in the growth of the cancer.
The removal of the testicles would not offer a complete cure for prostate cancer, but would shrink the size of the growth to a great extent. The procedure would also curb the growth of the cancerous cells, and offer relief from prostate cancer and its symptoms for longer periods (months or years).
Removal of the Prostate Gland
Also called as radical prostatectomy or total prostatectomy, the removal of the prostate gland is recommended in cases where the cancer remains restricted to the prostate gland (has not spread yet). It is also recommended as a cure to reduce the symptoms of the condition.
The procedure involves removing the entire prostate gland by either via a cut made near the abdomen or through a procedure called as ‘keyhole surgery’ (the prostate gland is removed with the help of tiny incisions through which a video camera and instruments are inserted into the body).
Radiation Therapy For Prostate Cancer
Otherwise called X-Ray therapy, radiation therapy for prostate cancer involves using radiation to eliminate the cancer cells and curb their growth. The high level radiation would be target only the cancerous cells while leaving the healthy cells untouched or with minimal damage.
There are two types of radiation therapy for prostate cancer. These include:
External Radiation Therapy: The radiation is emitted by a machine and is targeted at the prostate gland from outside.
Internal Radiation: Also called as Brachytherapy, the procedure involves placing very thin tubes (made of plastic) containing radiation emitting materials into the infected tumor. In some cases, the tubes are removed after the treatment. In other cases, they are left in the prostate gland permanently to prevent recurrences.
The use of radiation therapy for prostate cancer may have some side effects on individuals opting for the procedure. Some of the side effects caused by radiation therapy include sensitive skin (becomes inflamed and reddish), hair loss, increased/decreased skin sensitivity, skin discoloration, urinary incontinence, hematuria and erectile dysfunction. These side effects would usually be temporary and would be restricted to the treatment site.
Cryotherapy For Prostate Cancer
Cryotherapy or Cryosurgery or Cryoablation is a form of treatment often chosen to treat prostate cancer at its early stages. The treatment involves freezing the cancerous growth with the help of cold gases that are injected into the prostate gland via hollow needles (or) probes. The patient is usually administered epidural, spinal or general anesthesia for the procedure.
The needles are injected into the skin at several places between the scrotum and anus. With the help of a TRUS (transrectal ultrasound), the doctor would carefully maneuver the needles into the prostate. The gases passed into the prostate transform into tiny ice balls which target the prostate gland.
The entire procedure is monitored via the ultrasound at regular intervals to minimize damage to the surrounding tissues. The urethra is also kept warm during cryotherapy by circulating warm saline water through it. This is done with the help of a catheter which is usually retained in the urethra for a period of 3 weeks or more to facilitate urination while recovering.
Cryotherapy would have some side effects for the first few days after treatment. These would usually be restricted to the treatment site and would include soreness, bruising, inflammation of the scrotum or penis, intestinal or bladder pain, burning urination, urinary and bowel incontinence, erectile dysfunction and sexual impotence (very rare) etc.
Chemotherapy For Prostate Cancer
Chemotherapy treatment for prostate cancer is usually initiated in cases where the cancer is in its most advanced stage or does not respond to other forms of treatment like hormonal therapy. The treatment involves using cytotoxic (anti cancer) drugs to either shrink the cancerous growth or eliminate the cancerous cells altogether.
The drugs are usually administered intravenously and would effectively curb the growth of the cancer to a great extent. Accordingly, some of the more cytotoxic drugs used for chemotherapy treatment of prostate cancer include Paclitaxel, Docetaxal, Mitoxantrone and Cabazitaxel etc.
The use of chemotherapy to treat prostate cancer has its own share of side effects on individuals who opt for the procedure. Some of the common side effects experienced due to chemotherapy include bleeding, bruising, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of taste, loss of appetite, hair loss, fatigue, weakened immune system and anemia. The effects would usually be temporary and would recede with time.
Hormonal Therapy For Prostate Cancer
Otherwise called as Androgen-Suppression Therapy or Androgen Deprivation Therapy, Hormonal Therapy for the treatment of prostate cancer involves using drugs (like agonists, anti-androgen agents and LHRH analogs) or injections to either add or block hormones that can significantly affect the cancerous growth.
These drugs and injections target the hormones in the body to effectively curb the growth of the cancer. This includes blocking the production of excess testosterone by the testicles, curbing the excess production of other androgens by the body and stimulating the production of hormones like estrogen that counteract the cancerous effects of testosterone and other androgens in the body.
In certain cases, hormone therapy treatment would also require an orchiectomy wherein the testicles would have to be surgically removed in order to curb the production of excess testosterone which would otherwise aid in the growth of the cancer.
Vaccine Treatments For Prostate Cancer
Still in its testing phase, the vaccine treatment for prostate cancer would employ the use of DNA strands from the human body to eliminate the cancer cells. The vaccine is said to contain viruses which carry human DNA in them. These viruses would strengthen the body and use its natural defenses to kill the cancer cells.
Vaccine treatment for prostate cancer can only be prescribed for individuals who have advanced prostate cancer or do not respond to other forms of treatment for the disease.