Prostate Cancer Treatment

Written by Amy Hall
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Prostate cancer treatments include an arsenal of traditional and innovative therapies that, when used in combination, can render a patient cancer-free. When a man is diagnosed with prostate cancer, usually the patient himself and his team of cancer specialists decide upon the course of treatment. Prostate cancer surgery is a big decision for many men to consider, because one of the devastating side effects of this surgery is impotence.

A man who is still healthy and active may find that the idea of going through the rest of his life with impotence is not worth succumbing to the surgery to remove the prostate and some of the surrounding glands and lymph nodes. Fortunately, in some cases, surgery can be postponed while other less invasive treatments are used. Radiation therapy is commonly used to treat prostate cancer, as is chemotherapy. Many men also look to alternative therapies, such as homeopathic remedies and strict diet changes.

High Dose Rate (HDR) Brachytherapy is a type of internal radiotherapy that is used to pinpoint the cancer without damaging the surrounding healthy tissues. Essentially, this type of radiation is delivered from the inside out, thus minimizing the damage to any of the surrounding areas while destroying the cancer itself effectively. Many men opt for this treatment because it may allow them to escape surgery altogether.

Beating Prostate Cancer with Modern Medicine

Another type of radiotherapy is called Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), which is the most advanced form of conformal radiation. With IMRT, a sophisticated computer program is able to showcase the tumor in three dimensions. This 3D image makes it easier to deliver a precise dose of radiation based on the tumor's size, shape, and exact location. This treatment option is also geared at killing the cancer while sparing the healthy tissue surrounding the tumor.

Fractured dose chemotherapy is used to kill the cancer while reducing the risks of the normal side effects associated with chemo. The patient takes a powerful dose of drugs in smaller doses over a specified amount of time, usually several days. The concept is that the cancer cells are exposed to the drugs for a longer period of time, yet the side effects are minimized due to the smaller dosages. Many patients who fear the unpleasant side effects associated with traditional chemotherapy often opt for this type of treatment.

Hormone therapy can also be implemented to try and reduce the levels of testosterone in the patient. It used to be that men would have to undergo a medical castration, which is the removal of the testicles, to achieve this goal. For obvious reasons, this is devastating to any man, as this surgery renders him impotent and physically scarred. Today, certain medications can be used to achieve the same goal, such as Lupron. Men who undergo hormone therapy may need counseling to deal with the side effects that may include the enlargement of the breasts, hot flashes, and impotence.

Getting on with Life after Prostate Cancer

The diagnosis of prostate cancer is utterly devastating for any man, as the side effects that go with the treatments can lead to impotence. Prostate cancer can be detected in young men, but typically it strikes men in their sixties and seventies, more often affecting African Americans than other races. Scientists are not sure why African American men are more at risk of developing prostate cancer, but research is underway to try and pinpoint risk factors with more accuracy. There does not seem to be a connection between prostate cancer and sexually transmitted diseases, although this is also being researched with vigor.

If you experience difficulty urinating, ejaculating, or you have blood in your urine or semen, you should immediately contact your doctor for further testing. In some cases, the problem is not cancer but rather benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). This is not life threatening; however, treatment is often necessary to control the symptoms. An examination by your doctor will be able to better determine the cause of your symptoms and allow you and your doctor to determine the best course of treatment.

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