The treatment of organ-confined prostate cancer has involved cutting out, radiating, or freezing the gland to try to cure the disease. In more advanced cases, the goal has been to control the cancer for at least some time by using endocrine treatment or chemotherapy. Earlier diagnosis and improved treatment techniques in recent years have certainly led to better results. Interestingly, however, early diagnosis of prostate cancer, and/or early treatment of prostate cancer has not improved the prostate cancer specific survival or overall survival from prostate cancer.
The key to curing prostate cancer, however, ultimately will come from an understanding of the genetic basis of this disease. Genes, which are chemical compounds located on the chromosomes, determine the characteristics of individuals. Accordingly, investigators at research centers have focused on identifying and isolating the gene, or genes, responsible for prostate cancer. Studies have uncovered some of the genetic links to the disease. Now studies will be performed to try to block, or modify, the offending genes to prevent or alter the disease. Finally, vaccines to either prevent or treat prostate cancer have been developed and are in use.
Many men who have advanced prostate cancer experience side effects. Some of these side effects result from the treatments used to slow the spread of cancer. Other side effects come from the disease itself. Understanding these side effects can relieve fears and help you cope better. So can being an active participant in your own care. Ask your doctor questions. Learn about potential symptoms and options before receiving treatments. Carefully weigh each option with your doctor's input.