Prostate Cancer Treatment
The prostate cancer treatment that’s right for you depends on several factors including: your age, the grade of the tumor (the Gleason score), the number of biopsy tissue samples that contain cancer cells, the stage of the cancer, your symptoms, and your general health. A prostate cancer specialist, called an oncologist, can describe your treatment choices, the expected results of each, and the possible side effects. You and your doctor will work together to determine the timing of treatment and which treatments are needed for you to have the best possible outcome.
Not Every Patient Starts Cancer Treatment Right Away
You may choose active surveillance if the risks and possible side effects of treatment outweigh the possible benefits. Your doctor may suggest active surveillance if you’re diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer that seems to be slowly growing. Your doctor may also offer this option if you are older or have other serious health problems.
Choosing active surveillance doesn’t mean you’re giving up. It means you’re putting off the side effects of surgery or radiation therapy. Having surgery or radiation therapy is no guarantee that a man will live longer than a man who chooses to put off treatment.
If you and your doctor agree that active surveillance is a good idea, your doctor will check you regularly (such as every 3 to 6 months, at first). After about one year, your doctor may order another biopsy to check the Gleason score. You may begin treatment if your Gleason score rises, your PSA level starts to rise, or you develop symptoms. You’ll receive surgery, radiation therapy, or another approach.
Active surveillance avoids or delays the side effects of surgery and radiation therapy, but this choice has risks. For some men, it may reduce the chance to control cancer before it spreads. Also, it may be harder to cope with surgery or radiation therapy when you’re older.
If you choose active surveillance but grow concerned later, you should discuss your feelings with your doctor. Another approach is an option for most men.
When the time comes for treatment the RMCC prostate cancer care team will develop a plan that's right for you.
Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer
The radiation comes from a large machine outside the body. You will go to a hospital or clinic for treatment. Treatments are usually 5 days a week for several weeks. Many men receive 3-dimensional conformal radiation therapy or intensity-modulated radiation therapy. These types of treatment use computers to more closely target the cancer to lessen the damage to healthy tissue near the prostate.
The radiation comes from radioactive material usually contained in very small implants called seeds. Dozens of seeds are placed inside needles, and the needles are inserted into the prostate. The needles are removed, leaving the seeds behind. The seeds give off radiation for months. They don’t need to be removed once the radiation is gone.
Hormone Therapy for Prostate Cancer
A man with prostate cancer may have hormone therapy before, during, or after radiation therapy. Hormone therapy is also used alone for prostate cancer that has returned after treatment.
Male hormones (androgens) can cause prostate cancer to grow. Hormone therapy keeps prostate cancer cells from getting the male hormones they need to grow. The testicles are the body’s main source of the male hormone testosterone. The adrenal gland makes other male hormones and a small amount of testosterone.
Hormone therapy uses drugs or surgery:
- Drugs: Your doctor may suggest a drug that can block natural hormones:
- Luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LH-RH) agonists: These drugs can prevent the testicles from making testosterone. Examples are leuprolide, goserelin, and triptorelin. The testosterone level falls slowly. Without testosterone, the tumor shrinks, or its growth slows. These drugs are also called gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists.
- Antiandrogens: These drugs can block the action of male hormones. Examples are flutamide, bicalutamide, and nilutamide.
- Other drugs: Some drugs can prevent the adrenal gland from making testosterone. Examples are ketoconazole and aminoglutethimide.
- Surgery: Surgery to remove the testicles is called orchiectomy.
After orchiectomy or treatment with an LH-RH agonist, your body no longer gets testosterone from the testicles, the major source of male hormones. Because the adrenal gland makes small amounts of male hormones, you may receive an antiandrogen to block the action of the male hormones that remain. This combination of treatments is known as total androgen blockade (also called combined androgen blockade). However, studies have shown that total androgen blockade is no more effective than surgery or an LH-RH agonist alone.
Doctors usually treat prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body with hormone therapy. For some men, the cancer will be controlled for two or three years, but others will have a much shorter response to hormone therapy. In time, most prostate cancers can grow with very little or no male hormones, and hormone therapy alone is no longer helpful. At that time, your doctor may suggest chemotherapy or other forms of treatment that are under study. In many cases, the doctor may suggest continuing with hormone therapy because it may still be effective against some of the cancer cells.
PSMA Therapy for Advanced Prostate Cancer
RMCC Among First in Colorado to Offer Breakthrough Treatment for Advanced Prostate Cancer Patients
Advanced prostate cancer, also called metastatic prostate cancer, begins in the prostate gland and spreads to other parts of the body. Long-term survival (5 to 10 years after diagnosis) from prostate cancer is very high when prostate cancer is diagnosed early and found in only the prostate and nearby parts of the body, but survival duration is significantly shorter after diagnosis of advanced prostate cancer.
At Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers, men with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC), an advanced stage of prostate cancer, now have access to a promising treatment that combines new diagnostic imaging technology with a therapy recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration that targets and destroys prostate cancer cells.
What Advanced Prostate Cancer Patients Can Expect
Eligible patients will be scheduled for an imaging exam and an injection of a new tracing agent called Pylarify® which provides clearer and earlier visibility of tumors than other imaging technologies.
Next, eligible patients will receive a therapy called Pluvicto™ over the course of 6-9 months. Pluvicto™ is a targeted therapy that releases radiation into prostate cancer cells, destroying them, while sparing healthy surrounding tissue.
The combination of Pylarify® and Pluvicto™ is a breakthrough for advanced prostate cancer patients whose cancer has spread or grown resistant to other forms of treatment. Until recently, these men had limited treatment options but advances in imaging technology and recent clinical trial studies of Pluvicto™ have shown, “significantly extended survival among patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer.”
Prostate Cancer Clinical Trials
A clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment. We currently have several clinical trials open for prostate cancer patients diagnosed at various stages of the disease. Talk with your RMCC cancer care team to see if a clinical trial is right for you.
Prostate Cancer Surgery
The surgeon makes a large incision (cut) into your body to remove the tumor. There are two approaches:
- Through the abdomen: The surgeon removes the entire prostate through a cut in the abdomen. This is called a radical retropubic prostatectomy.
- Between the scrotum and anus: The surgeon removes the entire prostate through a cut between the scrotum and the anus. This is called a radical perineal prostatectomy.
The surgeon removes the entire prostate through small cuts, rather than a single long cut in the abdomen. A thin, lighted tube (a laparoscope) helps the surgeon remove the prostate.
Robotic Laparoscopic Surgery
The surgeon removes the entire prostate through small cuts. A laparoscope and a robot are used to help remove the prostate. The surgeon uses handles below a computer display to control the robot’s arms.
For some men, cryosurgery is an option. The surgeon inserts a tool through a small cut between the scrotum and anus. The tool freezes and kills prostate tissue.
A man with advanced prostate cancer may choose TURP (transurethral resection of the prostate) to relieve symptoms. The surgeon inserts a long, thin scope through the urethra. A cutting tool at the end of the scope removes tissue from the inside of the prostate. TURP may not remove all of the cancer, but it can remove tissue that blocks the flow of urine.
Surgery can damage the nerves around the prostate. Damaging these nerves can make a man impotent (unable to have an erection). In some cases, your surgeon can protect the nerves that control erection. But if you have a large tumor or a tumor that’s very close to the nerves, surgery may cause impotence. Impotence can be permanent. You can talk with your doctor about medicine and other ways to help manage the sexual side effects of cancer treatment.
If your prostate is removed, you will no longer produce semen. You’ll have dry orgasms. If you wish to father children, you may consider sperm banking or a sperm retrieval procedure before surgery.
Chemotherapy for Prostate Cancer
Chemotherapy may be used for prostate cancer that has spread and no longer responds to hormone therapy.
Find a Prostate Cancer Specialist Near You
The comprehensive approach offered by our prostate cancer team combines the most advanced treatments with education, support services, and complementary therapies.