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There are many prostate cancer treatment options. While you and your doctor will work together to find out which path is best for you, familiarizing yourself with the available options can help you make an informed decision. Each course of treatment will come with different challenges and expectations after your recovery.
For some men with slow-growing tumor cells, frequent monitoring of the tumor can be a viable option for treatment. Because studies have shown that some low-risk prostate cancer does not decrease life expectancy, Active Surveillance is a good option with fewer side effects than more aggressive treatment. Actively Surveillance includes yearly or biannual DREs, PSA tests, and biopsies every one to five years. Active Surveillance can continue as long as the tumor growth remains slow and contained.
For some more advanced forms of cancer, surgery may be a better option. A radical prostatectomy involves removing the prostate surgically through either open surgery or laparoscopically through the abdomen. This treatment requires a hospital stay and a significant recovery after surgery. Because of the invasive nature of a prostatectomy, side effects are inevitable. Nearly all men will experience incontinence immediately following surgery, but physical therapy can help alleviate these symptoms for some. Depending on the pathology of the removed tissue, surgery may be combined with other therapies such as radiation or hormone therapy to improve a patient’s overall prognosis.
Radiation therapy is a less invasive treatment for localized prostate cancer that can be used in conjunction with or as an alternative to other therapies. Radiation is an outpatient procedure that targets the prostate tumor with ionizing radiation, damaging the cancer cells so they can no longer spread and eventually die. There are different methods of radiation with varying side effects. Talking with your doctor about your lifestyle and goals after treatment can greatly inform which strategy you use.
While not a stand-alone treatment, hormone therapy can be paired with other treatments to improve outcomes in moderate to high-risk cancer profiles. Because naturally-occurring testosterone encourages the growth of prostate cancer cells, hormone therapy works by inhibiting testosterone to slow tumor growth. Because of significant side effects, this is not a viable treatment for low-risk patients but can be effective when paired with surgery or radiation in high-risk patients.
Diagnosed with Prostate Cancer? Insist on consulting with a Urologist and a Radiation Oncologist immediately and before you decide on a treatment plan. Call 309-451-2231 to schedule a consultation with a Radiation Oncologist.
All treatments for prostate cancer will come with a degree of side effects. Bladder control, sexual function, and fertility can all be impacted by prostate cancer treatments.
Surgery will have an immediate effect of incontinence due to the proximity of the prostate to the bladder. Most men report that the severity of incontinence lessens with time. Pelvic floor muscle strengthening and physical therapy can improve bladder control. While radiation does not lead to immediate incontinence, it can result in painful or more frequent urination over time for the duration of the treatment.
Erectile dysfunction is one of the most common side effects of prostate cancer treatment. Because the anatomy related to sexual health is so delicate, the trauma incurred from prostate cancer treatment will likely affect sexual performance. Talking with your doctor about expectations before going through treatment is important. There are medications and procedures that can help with erectile dysfunction after treatment.
Other than Active Surveillance, all prostate cancer treatments will likely lead to infertility. Radiation and hormone therapy both inhibit sperm production. Prostate surgery will disrupt the seminal connection to the testes. If fertility is a concern for your, it is imperative that you talk with your doctor before starting treatment.
When caught early, prostate cancer has very optimistic outcomes. Even after your treatment is complete, your journey isn’t done. Making a permanent commitment to a healthy lifestyle will not only improve overall health but may also slow the progression of prostate cancer. By quitting smoking, keeping a healthy Body Mass Index, and maintaining an exercise regime within your ability, you can make the most of your life after cancer.
Carle Cancer Institute Normal has the doctors and resources to support you through your journey to recovery and beyond.
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