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Treatment Option Overview

Note: Some citations in the text of this section are followed by a level of evidence. The PDQ editorial boards use a formal ranking system to help the reader judge the strength of evidence linked to the reported results of a therapeutic strategy. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Levels of Evidence for more information.)

State-of-the-art treatment in prostate cancer provides prolonged disease-free survival for many patients with localized disease but is rarely curative in patients with locally extensive tumor. Even when the cancer appears clinically localized to the prostate gland, a substantial fraction of patients will develop disseminated tumor after local therapy with surgery or radiation therapy. This development is the result of the high incidence of clinical understaging, even with current diagnostic techniques. Metastatic tumor is currently not curable.

Surgery is usually reserved for patients in good health who elect surgical intervention.[1,2,3] Tumors in these patients should be confined to the prostate gland (stage I and stage II). Prostatectomy can be performed by the perineal or retropubic approach. The perineal approach requires a separate incision for lymph node dissection. Laparoscopic lymphadenectomy is technically possible and accomplished with much less patient morbidity.[4] For small, well-differentiated nodules, the incidence of positive pelvic nodes is less than 20%, and pelvic node dissection may be omitted.[5] With larger, less differentiated tumors, a pelvic lymph node dissection is more important. The value of pelvic node dissection (i.e., open surgical or laparoscopic) is not therapeutic but spares patients with positive nodes the morbidity of prostatectomy. Radical prostatectomy is not usually performed if frozen section evaluation of pelvic nodes reveals metastases; such patients should be considered for entry into existing clinical trials or receive radiation therapy to control local symptoms. The role of preoperative (neoadjuvant) hormonal therapy is not established.[6,7]

Following radical prostatectomy, pathological evaluation stratifies tumor extent into organ-confined, specimen-confined, and margin-positive disease. The incidence of disease recurrence increases when the tumor is not specimen-confined (extracapsular) and/or the margins are positive.[8,9,10] Results of the outcome of patients with positive surgical margins have not been reported. Patients with extraprostatic disease are suitable candidates for clinical trials. Trials such as RTOG-9601 included the evaluation of postoperative radiation delivery, cytotoxic agents, and hormonal treatment using luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) agonists and/or antiandrogens.

Cryosurgery is a surgical technique under development that involves destruction of prostate cancer cells by intermittent freezing of the prostate tissue with cryoprobes, followed by thawing.[11][Level of evidence: 3iiiC];[12,13][Level of evidence: 3iiiDiv] Cryosurgery is less well established than standard prostatectomy, and long-term outcomes are not as well established as with prostatectomy or radiation therapy. Serious toxic effects include bladder outlet injury, urinary incontinence, sexual impotence, and rectal injury. Impotence is common. (For more information on impotence, refer to the PDQ summary on Sexuality and Reproductive Issues.) The frequency of other side effects and the probability of cancer control at 5 years' follow-up have varied among reporting centers, and series are small compared with surgery and radiation therapy.[12,13]

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WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: May 16, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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