Prostate cancer is the most common malignancy in American men.
Incidence of prostate cancer increases with age.
According to the American Cancer Society, men aged 50 or older should be offered a digital rectal exam (DRE) and a PSA blood test. However, it is a good idea to visit your doctor earlier to establish a baseline PSA level so you can monitor changes.
Prostate cancer is most often diagnosed through a blood test measuring the amount of prostate specific antigens (PSA) in the body. However, signs and symptoms of prostate cancer can include:
Other conditions that may cause these symptoms include an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hypertrophy or BPH) or infection.
After a diagnosis of prostate cancer has been established with a biopsy, the patient should discuss the treatment options with a radiation oncologist and a urologist. Radiation therapy treatment options to cure prostate cancer include:
External beam radiation therapy involves a series of daily outpatient treatments to accurately deliver radiation to the prostate.
There are two principal methods for delivering external beam radiation.
Both types of external beam radiotherapy are acceptable treatment; IMRT offers advantages for some but not all prostate cancer patients. With either type of therapy, painless radiation treatments are delivered in a series of daily sessions, each under half-hour in duration, Monday through Friday, for seven to ten weeks overall.
Potential side effects, including fatigue, increased frequency or discomfort of urination, and loose stools, typically resolve within a few weeks after completing treatments. Impotence is also a potential side effect of any treatment for prostate cancer. However, many patients who receive radiation therapy for prostate cancer are able to maintain sexual function.
In a few parts of the country, proton beam therapy is being used to treat prostate cancer.
Proton therapy is administered much the same way as external beam therapy, but it uses protons rather than x-rays to irradiate cancer cells.
Certain patients may benefit from hormone therapy in addition to radiation. In some patients, hormone therapy works with radiation therapy to improve cure rates.