There’s no one prostate cancer treatment that’s right for every man, but you've got plenty of options. Your doctor will consider many things when he recommends one for you, including:
- The size of your tumor and how far it has spread, called the stage of your disease
- How quickly the tumor is likely to grow
- Your age and how healthy you are
- Your personal preferences
What Options Are Available?
- Watchful waiting or active surveillance. Your doctor might suggest waiting to see if your tumor will grow or spread before you treat it. Most prostate cancer grows slowly, and some doctors think it’s better not to treat it unless it changes or causes symptoms. In watchful waiting, your doctor will closely track how the disease makes you feel. With active surveillance, you’ll also get regular tests to check on the cancer.
- Surgery. This usually involves removing all or part of the prostate. The kind of operation you get depends on the size of the tumor and where it is.
- Radiation. This treatment uses high-energy waves or particles to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. There are a few types doctors can use for cancer that’s only in the prostate, and others for when it spreads to other parts of the body.
- Hormone therapy. Some of the hormones your body makes can fuel the growth of prostate cancer cells. This type of therapy lowers levels of those hormones or stops the cells from using them.
- Chemotherapy. Drugs that you take by mouth or through an IV travel through the body, attacking and killing cancer cells and shrinking tumors. You might get chemo if the disease has spread outside your prostate and hormone therapy isn’t working for you.
- Biologic therapy. This treatment works with your immune system to fight the disease. It’s used to treat advanced prostate cancer.
- Bisphosphonate therapy. If the disease reaches your bones, these drugs can ease pain and prevent fractures.
Your doctor will usually start with one treatment at a time. But in some cases, you might get a few treatments at once. Talk to your doctor about the course that’s best for you.
Scientists also are studying other types of treatment in clinical trials. They test new therapies to see if they’re safe and if they work. Some of the ones researchers are looking into now include:
- Cryotherapy or cryosurgery. They treat cancer located only in the prostate. Doctors use probes that give off extreme cold to freeze the tumor’s cells.
- High-intensity focused ultrasound. The opposite of cryotherapy, this treatment uses a probe that gives off high heat, which kills cancer.
- Proton beam radiation therapy. A type of radiation, it uses very small particles to attack and kill cancer cells that haven’t spread.
Ask your doctor if you might benefit from joining one of these trials.
Are There Side Effects?
The treatments for prostate cancer also can affect your body in other ways. Side effects can include:
- Bowel problems
- Lower sex drive
- Erectile dysfunction
- Loss of your ability to get a woman pregnant
- Leaky bladder or loss of bladder control. You might also need to pee a lot more often.
Side effects are another factor to think about when you’re choosing a treatment. If they’re too tough to handle, you might want to change your approach. Talk to your doctor about what you can expect. He can also help you find ways to manage your side effects.
What Else Should You Consider?
Remember, you have options, and it’s important to choose the one that works best for you. When choosing a treatment, think about:
- The risks. Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of each type of therapy.
- The side effects. Consider whether or not you’re willing to deal with how the treatment might make you feel.
- Whether or not you need it. Not all men with prostate cancer need to be treated right away.
- Your age and overall health. For older men or those with other serious health conditions, treatment may be less appealing than watchful waiting.