If you have recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer, chances are that you are feeling frightened. Don't let fear control the choices you make, though. You likely have time to fully educate yourself before moving forward with a plan. The following guide can help you navigate the time immediately following a diagnosis.
Understand your diagnosis
One of the most important things to do is understand the severity of your cancer. Prostate cancer can vary greatly, from slow growing to quite aggressive.
- Benign prostate tumors are not cancerous, but they can impede urination, so they will need some sort of treatment.
- Prostatic adenocarcinoma is one of the most common types, and it is generally slow growing.
- Carcinoma cancers of the prostate are aggressive and often have reached advanced states by the time they are detected.
- Sarcoma is rare, but it can quickly spread into the lymphatic system, muscles, and nearby connective tissues.
Consider if treatment is necessary
When it comes to prostate cancer, there are two primary treatment strategies—surveillance and active treatment. For the less aggressive, benign tumors and adenocarcinoma, your doctors may recommend surveillance or monitoring instead of immediate treatment. This is especially true if you are older and the cancer is spreading so slowly that it isn't affecting your quality of life or posing an immediate health threat. In this case, you will go in for regular monitoring, including biopsies. If a change is detected or if the cancer becomes more aggressive, then you will be recommended for active treatment.
Know your active treatment options
Active treatment is usually reserved for more aggressive forms of prostate cancer or for when less aggressive forms affect quality of life. The four main active prostate cancer treatments are the following.
Surgery. The tumor and the prostate may be removed. This is generally the only treatment method required for benign tumors. Surgery may also be recommended in conjunction with other treatments for more aggressive tumors to prevent the cells from spreading to nearby tissues.
Radiation. This form of treatment uses x-rays to destroy the cancer cells. You may only receive radiation if the cancer cells are localized in a small area, or radiation may be used in conjunction with surgery to ensure no cancer cells remain.
Chemotherapy. Although a well-known treatment to many, chemo isn't often used for prostate cancer unless the cancer has advanced and begun to spread to other parts of the body.
Hormone therapy. The male hormone testosterone actually increases the growth of prostate cancer cells. Taking hormone-blocking drugs to limit testosterone production can actually go a long way toward slowing the growth of the cancer. This therapy is usually reserved for cases where surgery isn't possible or when radiation isn't slowing the cancerous growth at a fast enough pace. Hormone only sends the cancer into remission; it doesn't cure it.
Contact a cancer treatment center for more help in deciding on the best treatment plan for you.