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Understanding Your Options After Prostate Cancer Diagnosis

Date : August 15,2014
By : Kandace Heller

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2014 approximately 233,000 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed. In most men prostate cancer progresses very slowly and may never cause any actual problems. However, in some men it does progress and can develop into a lethal disease. Approximately 29,480 men die from prostate cancer each year.

Decision 1. Treat or watch?

The dilemma that faces each man diagnosed with prostate cancer is whether to try to treat it immediately or to just wait and watch the tumor. In most men, doing what is called “watchful waiting” does not lead to any adverse events other than anxiety about the tumor. However, sometimes delaying treatment while doing “watchful waiting” allows the tumor to progress into a lethal form. But since treatments may cause serious side effects, avoiding treatment if possible can be a good thing. The physician can make a “best guess” about whether the prostate tumor might become lethal based on characteristics of the tumor, but such predictions are currently not terribly accurate.

Decision 2. Prostatectomy or other type of treatment?

Prostatectomy is surgical removal of the entire prostate. Men often choose prostatectomy because it will take care of the problem in one simple procedure. Recovery from a radical prostatecomy takes 3 to 5 weeks. Incontinence and impotence are, unfortunately, quite common side-effects of prostatectomy.

Decision 3. Which of the “others”?

Alternative treatment methods include various kinds of radiation, high-intensity focused ultrasound therapy (HIFU), cryotherapy, and others. Studies indicate that all of these methods are approximately equally effective in curing prostate cancer and are just as effective as prostatectomy. However, they differ in their side effects. Proton beam therapy is reported to have an extremely low rate of impotence, but treatment requires a daily session for eight weeks.

Factors to consider

Being diagnosed with prostate cancer requires many treatment decisions to be made. First the patient must decide whether to be treated or engage in “watchful waiting.” If the patient opts for treatment, the patient must then decide between surgery and a wide array of possible alternatives. Availability of particular treatments, costs, and possible side effects need to be considered.

If we could see into the future we would be able to make better decisions about what to do with each case of prostate cancer. There is no right or wrong answer to the question of which course of action to take. It depends on the individual man, his family history, his health conditions and his personal preferences.

About the Author: Kandace Heller is a freelance writer in Orlando, Florida. She loves researching, writing and sharing what she learns with others. Informational credit to the prostate cancer doctors at International HIFU.