If you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer, you probably have questions and concerns. The good news is that the disease can often be treated successfully. At Central Maine Healthcare, we’ll answer all your questions and explain all your options.
Prostate Cancer Treatment
Treatment of prostate cancer depends on many factors, including your overall health and wellness, the stage of the cancer (early or advanced), and your personal feelings around certain treatments and possible side effects. Your cancer care team will work closely with you to determine the best plan, which may include access to cancer clinical trials, right here in Central Maine Healthcare.
Surgery is the primary treatment for mostly younger men and many older men with early-stage prostate cancer. The most common procedure is called radical prostatectomy, which removes the prostate gland and nearby lymph nodes.
The prostate is close to the urethra and genitals, which makes this procedure complicated. Your surgeon will work to avoid damage that can cause urinary or sexual problems.
Central Maine Healthcare uses the most advanced radiation technology available to treat prostate cancer with extreme precision, while avoiding normal, healthy tissue. Options include:
- External beam radiation therapy (EBRT): In EBRT, beams of radiation are focused on the prostate gland from a machine outside the body called a linear accelerator. Because the prostate is close to other critical body structures, a clear view of the prostate during radiation therapy is critical to avoid side effects such as incontinence and impotence. Our radiologists use an advanced accelerator to plan and deliver high-dose radiation with unmatched precision. The result is faster, more effective treatments that minimize the impact on your quality of life.
- Internal radiation therapy: Also called HD brachytherapy, this minor outpatient procedure involves implanting tiny radioactive seeds close to the prostate tumor. These seeds, about the size of a grain of rice, remain in place and give off radiation to the tumor site for weeks or months. Brachytherapy alone is generally used only in men with early-stage prostate cancer that is relatively slow growing. It often offers a variety of advantages, including minimal risk of urinary incontinence and sexual problems, and a quicker return to regular activities.
Our radiation oncologists may also consult with specialists at Massachusetts General Hospital, if necessary. Our affiliation with MGH – a world leader in cancer research and treatments – ensures that our patients receive the highest quality of cancer care.
As part of our whole-body medical oncology program, we offer the latest and most effective chemotherapy options. Chemotherapy is not a standard treatment for early prostate cancer, but it may be used if the cancer has spread outside the prostate. Recent studies have shown that newer chemo drugs can help men live a longer and higher quality of life.
We also offer hormone therapy, which works by reducing the body’s level of male hormones, called androgens, which prostate cancer cells need to grow. This treatment uses medications that inhibit the body’s hormone production, or by surgically removing the testicles.
Hormone therapy may be used before radiation to try to shrink the cancer to make treatment more effective, after surgery or radiation if the cancer returns or if you can’t have traditional treatments for specific reasons.
Also called cryosurgery or cryoablation, this technique uses very cold temperatures to freeze and kill prostate cancer cells. Cryotherapy is sometimes used to treat early-stage prostate cancer, or as an option if the cancer has returned after radiation therapy. During the procedure, an ultra-thin probe is inserted into the prostate gland, then infuses freezing liquid to destroy cancerous areas. By using ultrasound as a guide, your surgeon can limit damage to healthy tissue.
If your prostate cancer is small, not expected to grow quickly and isn’t causing any symptoms, your doctor may recommend an approach called active surveillance, or watchful waiting. This means that instead of treatment (and potential side effects), the cancer will be monitored closely, with prostate cancer screenings and other tests done every few months. If your results change, or you start to experience symptoms, you may then begin a treatment plan.
Active surveillance is often recommended for men who may not need treatment for prostate cancer, or for older men who have other serious health problems. Men who are young and healthy are less likely to be offered this approach, out of concern that the cancer might become a problem over the next 20 or 30 years.