10 Treatment Options for Prostate Cancer
Chris Regal | June 12, 2012
Prostate cancer prognosis can have a dramatic range, from a “watchful waiting” to immediate action. The age, grade and stage of the cancer influence the treatment options, as does the overall health of the patient. Some treatment options are more successful and/or carry a greater risk of side effects than others, so the decision should be collaborative between the patient and doctor.
Prostate tumors are not terribly uncommon among men, though the growth rate and symptoms should be monitored closely. Not all tumors require immediately action, and thus, a “watchful waiting” approach is acceptable in many instances.
A radical prostatectomy is a surgical procedure that is a complete removal of the prostate gland. This surgery can lower the risk of recurrence and is often used in younger men with aggressive forms of cancer. Surgery has advanced to the point of being minimally invasive with little damage to the surrounding areas.
Radiation is used to treat localized cancer. It can also be used to treat cancer that has not been fully removed through another means or has recurred. In advanced cases, radiation can be used to relieve symptoms and shrink the tumor.
External beam radiation
External beam radiation involves focusing a beam of radiation directly on the tumor, using computer imaging for precision. This treatment is known to reduce the risk of recurrence of cancer.
Brachytherapy involves planting radioactive “seeds” into the prostate. These “seeds” shrink the size of the tumor and can be supplemented through radiation therapy. However, this procedure carries a high risk, as if applied incorrectly, the radiation can spread throughout the body.
Cyrosurgery is often the alternative to the radical prostatectomy. Instead of removing the entire prostate and surrounding tissue, cryosurgery involves pumping liquid nitrogen into the body to freeze all prostate cells, killing them in the process, where the now deceased cells are absorbed into the body.
Male hormones, including testosterone and dihydrotestosterone, stimulate prostate cell growth. By depriving the prostate of those hormones, the prostate cells – both unhealthy and cancerous – will no longer be allowed to grow and will eventually die.
Similar to hormone therapy, denying male hormones to the prostate prohibits growth. Orchiectomy is the surgical removal of the testicles, which produces these hormones in the body. By removing the source of growth, the prostate cells can no longer grow. This is the single most effective method of reducing male hormones (androgens).
Male hormones, known as androgens, are needed for the prostate cells – both cancerous and healthy – to grow. By taking a class of drugs that blocks the effect of these androgens – known as anti-androgens – the goal is to keep the prostate cells from growing. This treatment is generally used in combination with another treatment, either orchiectomy or LHRH agonists.
LH-RH (GnRH) agonists
The primary drugs used for suppressing androgens are called luteinizing hormone-releasing hormones (LH-RH) agonists, also known as gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists. These drugs block the pituitary gland from producing hormones that stimulate testosterone production.