Surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy are the most common types of treatment for cancer and may be used alone, or in combination, to treat prostate cancer. Your doctor will plan your treatment by taking into consideration the type and size of the tumour, whether the cancer has spread, your age and general health.
The most appropriate type of surgery depends on the size of the cancer and whether or not it has spread. If the cancer is in its early stages, it may be completely removed by this method. If the cancer cells have spread, your doctor may consider using surgery in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiation to alleviate your symptoms.
Transurethral resection (TURP)
If the prostate cannot be removed due to the extent of the cancer, symptoms such as the need to urinate can often be relieved by removing blockages in the urinary tract. This operation is called a transurethral resection of the prostate. It’s often used for those with late-stage prostate cancer, or when the removal of the entire prostate gland is not an option.
In this operation, the surgeon removes the entire prostate gland and some of the tissue around it, including the seminal vesicles (which produce most of the content found in semen). This procedure can be undertaken as open surgery or keyhole surgery with the help of a robot, for individuals whose cancer cells have not yet spread. It is usually performed under a general anaesthetic, with the surgery taking about four hours.
The surgery can result in problems achieving an erection and urinary incontinence. Given these and other potential side effects, it is important to learn more about the possible risks and side effects from your doctor before undergoing the procedure.
To slow the rate of growth of cancer cells, your doctor may consider removing the testicles to reduce the levels of male hormone in your body. In this surgical procedure, a small cut is made in the scrotum. Most men can return home on the same day of the surgery. Side effects can include hot flushes or problems achieving an erection.
If you want to know more about coping with cancer surgery, please see our information page.
Radiotherapy treats cancer by using high-energy rays which destroy the cancer cells, while doing as little harm as possible to normal cells. It may be used as a stand-alone treatment before or after surgery to treat your cancer. There are two kinds of radiotherapy: external radiotherapy and internal radiotherapy. External beam radiotherapy is commonly used to treat prostate cancer, although in some cases internal radiotherapy is used.
If you want to know more about radiotherapy, please see our information page.
This treatment involves the use of anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. It is not commonly used to treat prostate cancer unless the cancer cells have spread.
If you want to know more about chemotherapy, please see our information page.
Cancer of the prostate is dependent on the male hormone, testosterone, for its growth. By reducing the amount of testosterone in the body it’s possible to slow or stop the growth of the cancer cells. It can shrink the tumour and symptoms will often disappear completely. The two main ways of reducing testosterone are through surgery and medication. Hormone injections, or medication, are often used as an alternative to surgery to remove the testicles.
No treatment – ‘active surveillance’
As most prostate cancers grow slower than other types of cancer, your doctor may recommend no treatment but suggest regular check-ups, especially if:
The cancer tumour is small (at an early stage) and is slow-growing
You are over 75 years of age, as the cancer is unlikely to grow fast enough to cause any problems in your lifetime
The side effects of treatment are likely to have a greater impact on your life than the cancer. Discuss these with your doctor and ensure you fully understand all the aspects of a treatment’s side effects before you make any decisions on this.
Cancer treatments can cause a range of side effects. For more information on common side effects and tips on how to manage these, please see our information page.
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