No man wants to hear the words “prostate cancer” from his doctor, but with many good treatment options available today, outcomes are better than ever.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men except for skin cancer. More than 240,000 new cases are reported each year in the United States.
- Active surveillance, or watchful waiting
- Radiation therapy
- Surgery to remove the prostate with the cancer contained
With robotic surgery, Dr. Shah says the third option is much more viable than traditional surgery, which means urinary incontinence is less of an issue than it might have been in the past.
Active surveillance, or watchful waiting, is used when the cancer is very slow-growing, especially when patients are elderly or have other serious medical conditions. Instead of treating the cancer, the physician will watch for any growth through PSA testing, digital rectal exams and ultrasounds when appropriate.
Radiation therapy may be used to treat cancer that is confined to the prostate or may be used in conjunction with hormone therapy for cancer that has spread beyond the prostate. There are two forms of radiation therapy used to treat prostate cancer:
- External beam radiation, during which beams of radiation target the prostate.
- Internal radiation, or brachytherapy, during which radioactive seeds are implanted either permanently or temporarily to treat the cancer from the inside. Permanent seeds become ineffective after several months. Temporary seeds are part of what is often a two-day procedure. Both require anesthesia and are performed in an operating room.
The prostate is a continence gland, so when it is removed, men may experience incontinence. Those who undergo minimally-invasive robotic surgery appear to regain continence much more quickly.
“We see a definite difference [with robotic surgery] in terms of quality of life,” says Dr. Shah. “What we’ve found is within about three months, 80 percent or more of men don’t even need the use of a protective pad, and after about six months, that number turns to 98 percent.”
Advice for patients
“A prostate cancer diagnosis is a very scary thing to hear,” says Dr. Shah. “But it’s important to understand that even in its most aggressive forms, prostate cancer isn’t going to spread that day.”
- Discussing your treatment options with your physician
- Talking to your family
- Conducting your own research
- Joining a support group, or at least talking to other men who have been diagnosed
“What’s surprising to me is we’re incredibly stoic beings as men – and I’m allowed to say that because I’m one of them,” says Dr. Shah. “We won’t talk about it. But what my male patients tell me is the minute they mention it to another man [who has or had prostate cancer], they can start talking about it. There’s a huge support network out there.”
Finally, don’t be afraid to get a second opinion.
“Then you’ll make the most informed decision.”
For more information, visit Piedmont Cancer Center.