Prostate Cancer: Signs and Treatment Options

Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers found in men in the U.S. Each year, more than 161,000 new cases are diagnosed, and nearly 27,000 men die from the disease. However, treatment options are plentiful, and survival rates ““ especially with early detection ““ are high.

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. If you’re a man older than 50, with at least a 10-year-life expectancy, this is a good time to consider being screened.

The prostate is a walnut-sized organ below the bladder and above the rectum. The reproductive organ helps in semen production.

Recent research has found that this slow-growing cancer is most commonly found in men 65 and older, and those men typically do not die from the disease. In fact, when found early, the cancer’s cure rate is nearly 100 percent. How often you should be screened, after your initial screening, depends on your overall health and other risk factors.

Men who have a higher risk of prostate cancer may want to be screened before age 50, said St. Elizabeth radiation oncologist Dr. Pratish H. Shah.

“This is certainly something that influences our recommendations, so it is important to know if a patient has family members who were diagnosed with prostate cancer. African American patients, as well as anyone who had a family member diagnosed with prostate cancer at a younger age, may also benefit from initiating screening sooner,” Dr. Shah said.

Prostate Cancer Symptoms and Detection

Symptoms of prostate cancer can take years to develop, and mimic other diseases.

Symptoms include:

  • A frequent, sudden urge to urinate
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Weak urine flow
  • Painful urination
  • Difficulty in having an erection
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Pain or stiffness in the hips, lower back or pelvis
  • Blood in semen or urine

“Many men do not have symptoms at diagnosis, and are only diagnosed after evaluation for an elevated PSA (prostate-specific antigen), which is a blood test. Some patients could present with an abnormal rectal exam. If the patient has advanced disease, they may present with urinary obstruction or bone pain,” Dr. Shah said.

These symptoms don’t necessarily mean you have cancer, but your doctor can detect it, or rule it out.

Prostate Cancer Treatment

Prostate cancer patients have multiple treatment options, including simply monitoring the disease’s progression.

“If we recommend treatment, the most common options are surgery and radiation therapy. There are several types of radiotherapy, including radiosurgery and brachytherapy. Both are well-tolerated with excellent results,” Dr. Shah said.

“Some patients may benefit from a combination of treatment. However, choosing the appropriate treatment option would be based on the exact disease characteristics as well as the patient’s health and personal preferences. We are fortunate to have multiple options available to us,” Dr. Shah added.

One newer treatment option is by a linear accelerator machine. A linear accelerator delivers External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT), a high-powered X-ray that targets a specific area.

“For prostate cancer, the precision of our treatment allows us to minimize side effects by reducing the amount of  normal tissue that is exposed to radiation as well as increase the dose of radiation  that we can safely deliver to the tumor. Our newer machines are also faster in delivering treatment than in the past,” Dr. Shah explained.

If you are concerned about protest cancer, or are seeking treatment options, contact the cancer care team at St. Elizabeth today.