Prostate cancer is a complex heterogeneous disease that acts differently in different men. Therefore, treatment varies amongst individuals. A wide array of treatments exists for prostate cancer, which includes surgery, radiation, hormone deprivation therapy, chemotherapy, dietary changes and the use of various herbal supplements.
A patient may undergo hormonal therapy to reduce the level of testosterone in the body. Drugs that reduce testosterone production by the testicles like Luteinizing Hormone-Releasing Hormone (LH-RH) agonists are administered. The effect is not immediate and occurs 2-4 weeks after initiation of the therapy. Orchiectomy or castration is a surgical procedure that completely removes the testicles. It produces an immediate and permanent reduction in testosterone. Another alternative hormonal treatment is the use of hormone-blocking drugs, called antiandrogens. Antiandrogens like flutamide and nilutamide block the body’s ability to use androgens, such as testosterone.
Surgeons may use different techniques to remove the prostate. Surgical removal of the entire prostate gland is called radical prostatectomy. Radical prostatectomy is usually performed to remove early-stage prostate cancer that has not yet spread to other parts of the body. Side effects after radical prostatectomy for prostate cancer include incontinence and impotence. Cryosurgery, in which liquid nitrogen is used to freeze and kill prostate cancer cells is a common procedure. During cryosurgery, a warming catheter is inserted through the penis and this protects the urethra.
Radiation therapy involves the use of high-energy x-rays or subatomic particles to kill cancer cells. The rays may either be beamed from a machine or emitted by radioactive seeds implanted in the prostate.
Chemotherapy is also used to destroy cancer cells. Drugs are introduced into the body via the blood stream. The drugs work by destroying those cells that divide or grow rapidly. The most common side effects of chemotherapy are tiredness, nausea and hair loss.
Watchful waiting also known as “observation” is an option that physicians may use. The patients receive no active treatment unless symptoms appear. They may be asked to schedule regular medical checkups and report any new symptoms to the doctor immediately.
According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year relative survival rate for patients where cancer is detected while still in the local and regional stage is almost 100%.
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