Prostate cancer

Updated 09 September 2014

Treating prostate cancer

There are a number of different treatment options for prostate cancer, ranging from hormonal treatments to prostatectomy to radiotherapy. Patients are assessed on an individual basis to determine the most suitable option for their treatment.

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There are three different types of treatment for prostate cancer: Hormonal treatments, a radical prostatectomy, and radiotherapy. Here’s more about each of these treatments.


Hormonal therapy

The basis of all these different treatments is that it deprives the prostate of testosterone, a hormone that is needed for prostate cancer to develop and grow. Testosterone deprivation does, however, have side effects such as erectile dysfunction, breast enlargement and an increased risk for osteoporosis.

Once prostate cancer has grown beyond the prostate, the results of these treatments are poor, but they can certainly slow down the growth of the cancer.

Removing the testicles. This is known as surgical castration. This is usually seen as a last resort because of the psychological impact this procedure could have.

LHRH-analogues. These are hormonal injections that are given regularly to stop the production of testosterone in the testicles. They are effective, but costly.

Oestrogen. These hormones can be taken daily to stop testosterone production. Their side effects include an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

Anti-androgens. These only block the androgen receptors, not testosterone production, so that the testosterone levels are maintained in the bloodstream.

Read: Treatment for prostate cancer may cause infertility


Radical prostatectomy

This involves the removal of the prostate and the surrounding structures. This is very effective as long as the prostate cancer is still localised and provides the best chance of a cure (70 – 80%) for early prostate cancer. The side effects of a radical prostatectomy can, however, be unpleasant. These include possible erectile dysfunction, incontinence.

As this is a slow-growing cancer, this procedure is not recommended for patients with a life expectancy of less than ten years. Younger men, while they stand to gain freedom from prostate cancer by means of this procedure, also stand a greater chance of suffering from the long-term side effects of erectile dysfunction and incontinence.

Radiotherapy

There are two types of radiotherapy that can be used to combat prostate cancer: external beam therapy, or radiotherapy delivered by means of radioactive seeds (brachytherapy) planted into the prostate.

Brachytherapy carries the lowest risk of complications and is used very effectively to combat prostate cancer in its early stages.

External beam radiotherapy uses X-rays to kill the cancer cells on the prostate. These beams can, however, also destroy healthy tissue in the surrounding areas. This treatment is not painful, and is given five days a week for two months. Erectile dysfunction and bowel problems are possible side effects.

Read more:
Preventing prostate cancer
Causes of prostate cancer
Symptoms of prostate cancer


Sources: Health24; cancer.org; urologyhealth.org; prostatecanceruk.org

 

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