Prostate cancer begins in the prostate, a walnut-shaped gland that is part of the reproductive system. This type of cancer is the second most common cancer affecting males, second only to skin cancer.
People over 65 are the most likely demographic to be affected by prostate cancer—it occurs in one in seven males. Prostate cancer can be slow to progress, but it can also be dangerous because it does not have a lot of noticeable symptoms in the early stages. Many patients are not diagnosed until the cancer is in its later stages. Even at this point, there are a variety of treatment options.
Prostate cancer has a very early stage that is called indolent, and during this time period, men can decide to wait to have surgery or treatment. This period is called watchful waiting or active surveillance.
The prostate is monitored during this time, and tests are run at regular intervals, including biopsies on the prostate, rectal exams, and prostate-specific antigen(PSA) blood tests. If the cancer seems to be growing or the results of the tests are abnormal, a different treatment might be warranted.
Chemotherapy, also referred to as "chemo," is a treatment that is used for various types of cancer, including prostate cancer. These anti-cancer medications may be taken by mouth, or they are given through the vein in a hospital setting. This type of treatment is not always used for prostate cancer, but it is more likely a viable option when cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Scientists are now discovering that it may be especially useful immediately following surgery for prostate cancer. The chemotherapy that is used on men for this condition may also help with symptoms.
Another option for the treatment of prostate cancer is radiation therapy, which uses high-energy rays to kill the cancerous cells and stop them from multiplying. There are two different types of radiation therapy that are commonly used for men suffering from prostate cancer, including both internal radiation and external radiation.
If prostate cancer spreads to the bone, another form of radiation therapy can be used, where radiation medicine is injected into the body to kill the cancerous cells. This form of radiation is used for many stages of this type of cancer, but it is especially effective in its early stages.
Cryotherapy, also referred to as cryosurgery, utilizes cold temperatures to kill the cancerous cells of prostate cancer. Despite its misleading name, it is not actually a surgery, but it is a common procedure, where anesthesia is used to numb the entire lower half of the body. This is usually an outpatient procedure, although sometimes patients are kept overnight for observation when complications occur.
There are several side effects, including erectile dysfunction, blood in the urine, and urinary incontinence, along with additional bladder and rectum problems. Cryotherapy tends to be more successful when it is the first treatment that is used on the patient.
Hormone therapy is another treatment that can be used for men with prostate cancer, and it is also often called androgen suppression therapy or androgen deprivation therapy. Male hormones are called androgens, and this type of therapy is utilized to lessen the amount of these hormones that are found in the male body, also ceasing them from affecting the cells in the prostate.
There are many different types of hormone therapy, including surgical castration, where the testicles are removed so that they no longer produce the androgens. Medications may also be taken to suppress the androgens, such as estrogens and ketoconazole.
Vaccine treatments are used to boost the body’s immune system so that it can fight off prostate cancer. The name of this vaccine is called Provenge, and it has been deemed to be far superior to older vaccines, which boosted the body’s immune system, but only to fight off infections, not the actual cancer.
This vaccine is used mostly in prostate cancer that is advanced, and that has not responded well to other types of treatment in the earlier stages. The most common side effects only last for a few days with this treatment, including fever, chills, fatigue, nausea and headaches.
Severe problems occur when the prostate cancer spreads to the bones or bone metastasis, which can cause fractures. However, when prostate cancer does begin to spread, it typically will spread to the bones before it spreads elsewhere in the body. Bisphosphonates is a medication that works to slow down the growth of certain bone cells called osteoclasts.
Denosumab may also be prescribed. It is injected right under the skin approximately every four weeks. Corticosteroids can help alleviate pain that is experienced in the bones due to the spread of the cancer.
A healthy, nutritious diet can be shown to reduce the risk of getting prostate cancer, as well as help slow down its progression when a person already has the disease. Good diets to assist with prostate cancer include those that are low in fat, high in fiber, low in sugar, plant-based, and full of fresh fruits and vegetables. Try to avoid eating too much red and processed meats, as diets rich in saturated fats and deli meats are linked to more aggressive forms of prostate cancer.
Instead, seek out proteins from plants, such as beans and nuts. Also, try to avoid foods that have been organically grown, and drink mostly water—keep sodas and other sugary beverages to a minimum.
Herbal supplements and vitamins may help lower your risk of getting prostate cancer, as well as slow its progression in people who already have the disease. Vitamin D enables the patient to gain some control over genes involved with cell proliferation, and people with healthy levels of the vitamin in their bodies are less likely to have an aggressive form of the cancer, while those who are vitamin D deficient are more likely to get prostate cancer.
Although more research is needed, green tea extract may have the potential to stop the growth of cancerous cells, and it could possibly lessen the risks involved. Boron may also help shrink prostate tumors and stop the growth of cancerous cells.
Advanced prostate cancer can cause a lot of pain throughout many different areas of the body, including stiffness and a dull, almost constant pain in the ribs, lower back, pelvis and upper thighs. When this pain begins to set in, a medical professional may prescribe pain medications to increase the quality of life such as opiates.
Your physician may also refer you to a pain management specialist, who will be adept at setting up just the right pain medication regimen for your specific needs and medical history.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.