Prostate cancer options
Jeffrey A. Stern, MD, is an urologist with Banner Estrella Medical Center.
Question: I was just diagnosed with prostate cancer and my physician said there are many options. What is the best option for me?
Answer: There are many good treatments for prostate cancer. Indeed, prostate cancer treatment is never “one size fits all” so your decision should be based on your current quality of life and your lifestyle. Talk with your urologist. Your physician can give you open and honest answers regarding the benefits or possible side effects of each treatment
Typically, the most effective treatment for prostate cancer in a patient who is healthy enough to live at least 10 years from the time of diagnosis is removal of the prostate. Removal of the prostate, which is also known as “radical prostatectomy,” removes all the cancer immediately and can be performed either with open surgery through a large incision, or with laparoscopic/robotic surgery through several tiny incisions. Laparoscopic/robotic can mean a shorter hospital stay—one day vs. three days in the hospital for open surgery. In addition, patients are able to return to their normal activities more quickly because they have smaller incisions.
Side effects from surgery can involve temporary loss of urine control (incontinence) and difficulty with erections.
Robotic/laparoscopic surgery may help to minimize these side effects but there is no guarantee.
A second, and relatively new treatment option, is cryotherapy. Cryotherapy kills the cancer cells by freezing the prostate. This is a good option if removal of the prostate is not desirable, or if surgery or radiation therapy is not recommended because of health reasons. There is a shorter hospital stay and recovery time, but the long-term effectiveness is unknown because this is a new procedure.
A third treatment option, radiation therapy, involves using radiation to kill the cancer cells. If you have a history of heart disease, radiation therapy may be recommended over surgery. Radiation can be given as “external beam” or as seed implants. Men who have radiation therapy can develop erection problems within five years of treatment. Other side effects include inflammation of the bladder and rectum.
Before embarking upon any of these treatment options, it is very important to understand all of the potential benefits as well as side-effects. Ask your urologist any and all questions you have so that you will feel comfortable with the choice that you have made.