Here are some factors to consider when deciding on a prostate cancer treatment:
- your age and general health
- how quickly your cancer is growing
- how much your cancer has spread
- the potential benefits of the treatment
- the potential side effects of the treatment
Active surveillance means keeping close tabs on your prostate cancer to see if it changes. Active surveillance is an option if your cancer is not causing any symptoms and is expected to grow slowly. Since prostate cancer often spreads very slowly, many men who have the disease may take this option.
Men on active surveillance normally undergo regular PSA tests and periodic prostate biopsies to ensure that the cancer is not becoming more aggressive.
Radical Prostatectomy is surgery for prostate cancer that involves removing your prostate gland, some surrounding tissue and a few lymph nodes. This surgery can be performed in a variety of ways: open technique, laparoscopic, or robotic.
Radiation therapy uses high-powered energy to kill your cancer cells. A tailored treatment plan is developed depending on the nature of your cancer, individual symptoms and overall health. Radiation therapy can be delivered in two ways:
- External beam radiation - a machine moves around your body, directing high-powered energy beams, such as X-rays or protons, to your prostate cancer. Typically, treatment is five days a week for several weeks.
- Brachytherapy involves the planting of radioactive “seeds” inside your body that deliver low or high doses of radiation directly to the tumor cells within the prostate. The implanted seeds remain in your body and will eventually stop giving off radiation. The procedure lasts about 45 minutes.
Androgen Deprivation Therapy
In order to grow, prostate cancer cells need to “eat.” They feed on androgens, one of which is testosterone. Androgen deprivation therapy works by decreasing your androgen levels (stopping the production of the testosterone) and thus “starving” the cancer cells, causing them to die or to grow more slowly.
Systemic therapy incorporates hormone therapy, chemotherapy, biologic approaches, and bone-targeted therapy to control, slow, or stop the growth of prostate cancer cells.
Although chemotherapy is an intense treatment, the type of chemo used to treat prostate cancer is milder, with less severe side effects, than the chemotherapy used for other cancers.
Side effects of prostate cancer treatments can include:
- fatigue, changes in thinking, memory and retention, heart problems, hormone changes, dental problems, vision problems, chronic pain and problems with digestion, constipation or diarrhea
- stress, worry, sadness and anger
- relationships and intimacy changes related to responsibilities, roles, emotional closeness, sexual intimacy and fertility
To see videos on all of these topics, visit ifiweretom.ubc.ca/treating-prostate-cancer