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When men are diagnosed with prostate cancer, their first question is usually, “Can it be cured?” Often, their second question is, “What are my treatment options?”
Fortunately, research, diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer has advanced significantly. Many treatments for prostate cancer are considered safe and effective; even so, it’s important to discuss your treatment options with your doctor or specialist(s), so you can understand the process and side effects.
When you begin your exploration of prostate cancer treatments, you should think of your urologist as your team leader. Ask him or her for the names of two or three other prostate cancer experts you can speak to, including a medical oncologist, a radiation oncologist and another urologist.
Ask your doctor the following questions:
- Whom would you depend on for your own diagnosis and treatment?
- Whom would you want a family member to visit if they were diagnosed with prostate cancer?
When you discuss your cancer with a professional, it helps to bring along a significant other or friend who might be willing to raise topics that you feel uncomfortable bringing up; and may absorb information from the conversation that you don’t yet understand.
Seeking a Specialist
After you've gathered diagnosis and treatment advice from more than one source, it's time to find a provider. Keep in mind that it's best to prioritize your search by looking for a recommended expert or well-established practice rather than for a specific therapy.
For instance, it's not a good idea to focus your search based on the procedure such as transoral robotic surgery (TORS) for prostatectomy and then hoping the surgeon will meet your needs. Instead, search for an outstanding specialist and allow that person to help you decide which form of therapy is best for you. Also consider a multidisciplinary medical team with proven expertise in prostate cancer care. Experience is crucial to successful remission of the disease.
Traditional vs. Cutting-Edge Therapies
The vast majority of prostate cancer cells present as localized areas of disease. Standard treatments for localized cancers are radiation and surgery. For metastatic or recurrent prostate cancers, hormone therapy has become a common treatment option.
As research advances, new and promising forms of prostate cancer treatments are becoming available. One of the most exciting innovations is molecular analysis of DNA abnormalities; in particular, researchers are investigating DNA repair genes, mutated androgen receptors and ways to tailor hormone and chemotherapies to address specific molecular defects.
Molecular analysis can help doctors and specialists decide which specific cancer therapies will be ideal for individual patients. Additionally, these tests can indicate the best time to initiate or end a treatment based on the reaction of genes found on cancerous tumors. Ideally, scientists will use molecular analysis to develop inhibitors that prevent the cellular abnormalities that can lead to prostate cancer. Other innovations include turning to chemotherapy early in the treatment schedule as well as utilizing vaccines to combat the growth of tumors.
When the Best Treatment Is No Treatment
New urine and blood tests may be able to calculate a prostate cancer patient's risk of spreading. If your prostate cancer is not aggressive and unlikely to spread, you and your doctor might want to discuss simply monitor your health over time - a course of action called "active surveillance." Active surveillance might include regular biopsies and other tests, but not necessarily treatment. When your best treatment is no treatment, you can avoid unnecessary, expensive therapies and possible side effects.
If you face a prostate cancer diagnosis, know that you have a variety of treatment options available to you and that innovative options are possible. With the guidance of experienced medical professionals and your loved ones at your side, you can find a treatment that is right for you to help you continue living an active, healthy life.