What You Need To Know About Prostate Cancer

Yumhee Park | June 9, 2015

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If you have just been diagnosed with prostate cancer, chances are you are feeling scared and overwhelmed. You might not know much about prostate cancer or what is involved in treatment. The first step is to learn about the disease, the treatments and the prognosis. Educating yourself is the key to staying involved in your treatment and having the best possible outcome. The following are ten things you should know about prostate cancer.

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A treatable cancer

Prostate cancer is treatable, especially when detected early. Although it is the most common non-skin cancer in men, it is generally slow-growing. About ten percent of men diagnosed with prostate cancer take a “wait-and-see approach,” called active surveillance, with their doctor closely monitoring the growth of the tumor before beginning active treatment.

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Symptoms can be subtle

Early stage prostate cancer can go undetected because symptoms often show up only when the cancer has grown and spread to other parts of the body. Symptoms such as difficulty urinating, weak urine stream, urine stream stopping and starting, difficulty having an erection or painful urination should be checked by your doctor.

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To screen or not to screen?

Whether or not to routinely screen for prostate cancer using a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test is controversial. Results from various studies have been mixed, with some researchers finding that the PSA test gives too many false positives and that men who received screening without symptoms were just as likely to die from prostate cancer as those who did not have annual screening. Other studies have shown annual screening does save lives.

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Stages

After you are diagnosed, your doctor will perform tests to determine the stage of your cancer. These tests include blood tests, a digital rectal exam, bone scan, ultrasound, CT scan and an MRI. You might not need to have all of these tests completed. Cancer is staged I through IV, with stage I being early stage cancer and Stage IV advanced cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.

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Treatment options

Treatments for prostate cancer include: Active surveillance, Hormone therapy, Radiation therapy, Chemotherapy, Immunotherapy, and Surgery.

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How can hormone therapy be beneficial?

Male hormones, including testosterone, stimulate the growth of prostate cancer cells. Hormone therapy stops the body from producing testosterone or blocks the testosterone from reaching the cancer cells. This can help to shrink the tumor.

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Individualized treatment

You might receive more than one type of treatment, depending on your current health and the stage of your cancer. Your treatment should be individualized to your situation and your doctor should consider your age, current health, stage of can cancer and how severe your symptoms are.

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Who composes your medical team?

When you have been diagnosed with cancer, you often have a team of doctors. The types of doctors who treat prostate cancer include: urologist, urologic oncologist, medical oncologist and radiation oncologist. An oncology nurse, social worker and dietician might also be included in your medical team.

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The emotional toll

As with all cancers, you might experience emotional distress as well as physical. If you are having a difficult time coping with your illness, talk to your doctor about what resources are available, such as local or online support groups or meeting with a therapist. Your emotional well being is an important part of treatment.

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Consult your medical team

You should talk with your medical team about possible side effects of any treatments, including how it will affect daily activities (including your sex life), and what you can do to help reduce the side effects.

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Future of prostate cancer

Research into prostate cancer is ongoing. New discoveries will help improve treatments, for example, a recent study showed that using chemotherapy early in treatment, along with hormone therapy can help extend lives. Another study showed that a drug traditionally used for ovarian cancer might help treat prostate cancer. Be sure to ask your doctor about new studies and treatments.