Prostate cancer is the second most prevalent cancer in men. Although it is a common diagnosis for men, prostate cancer survival rates are very encouraging. According to the American Cancer Society, 99% of men who are diagnosed with a common kind of prostate cancer will still be alive five years after their diagnosis, and many have been known to live beyond the 10- and 15-year marks as well.
Patients may not experience symptoms of prostate cancer in its early stages. As prostate cancer progresses, patients may have symptoms such as blood in the urine and/or semen, difficulty urinating, pelvic area discomfort, and pain in the lower thighs, hips, or lower back. A patient should see a urologist once they have symptoms that worry them.
Upon visiting a urologist about the possibility of prostate cancer, a digital rectal exam (DRE) or a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test will be performed. If any irregularities appear on these tests, a urologist will either use an ultrasound to assess the patient’s prostate and/or collect a prostate biopsy to be analyzed in a lab.
Once a patient is diagnosed with prostate cancer, it is important to see how far it has progressed. The stages of prostate cancer can be classified using two different systems: the TNM system and Gleason system. Urologists often combine them to create a more accurate description of a patient’s prostate cancer diagnosis.
The TNM system analyzes three characteristics of tumor development and spreading:
The Gleason score is specific to prostate cancer. This score is decided once a urologist analyzes a biopsy under a microscope. Higher Gleason scores denote a more aggressive cancer. The following are five patterns on the Gleason grading system:
The information discovered using both the TNM system and the Gleason is used to classify the prostate cancer’s stage. This information helps urologists determine the best treatment plan to eradicate the cancer cells and prevent its spread. The following are the four stages of cancer:
Treating prostate cancer is dependent on how much it has progressed, the patient’s general health, and the benefits and side effects of the available treatment options. Some cases where prostate cancer is in its earliest stages only require active surveillance. This involves regular blood tests, biopsies, and rectal exams. If and when the cancer has progressed, a urologist will suggest the next step, which is usually either surgery or radiation.
A radical prostatectomy is a procedure that is performed to remove the prostate gland, some lymph nodes, and surrounding tissue. This surgery can be done through an incision in the patient’s abdomen or laparoscopically. If the patient decides to have a radical prostatectomy performed laparoscopically, it can be done by a surgeon alone, or with the help of a mechanical device. Robotic assisted radical prostatectomy permits the surgeon to make more exact movements as compared to traditional laparoscopy.
Radiation therapy is another treatment option that is used to eliminate cancer cells. Side effects from this treatment consist of frequent urination, painful urination, loose stools, and erectile dysfunction. Radiation can be given externally or internally. External beam radiation utilizes protons or X-rays to direct radiation to the patient five days a week for a few weeks. Brachytherapy is the internal delivery of radiation by a rice-sized radioactive seed. This administers radiation in low doses over an extended period of time. It is inserted using a needle, and does not need to be removed as it will ultimately stop giving off radiation.
The specialists at Academic Urology understand and stress the importance of early detection of prostate cancer. We keep the patient’s health and well-being in mind, from diagnosis to treatment. Call us today to learn more about the treatment options we provide for prostate cancer and other urologic conditions.