The second most common cancer in men is prostate cancer. About 900,000 cases are reported each year worldwide. However, more cases are being identified at an early stage thanks to increased awareness, early screenings and advanced technology. Earlier detection increases the probability for a better outcome for prostate cancer patients.
The prostate gland is located just below the bladder and surrounds the urethra in men. This male reproductive gland is responsible for making the fluid to carry semen.
Treatment options and prognosis vary depending on several factors. Your age and general health at the time of diagnosis play an important part in making the decision on how to proceed with treatment. Also, the stage of the cancer and Gleason score can influence what type of treatment your provider may recommend.
The most common scale used to evaluate and report on prostate cancer is the Gleason system. This system assigns a number from one to five based on how the cancerous cells look compared to the normal prostate cells. Grade 1 is cancer that looks very similar to normal prostate cells. Grade 5 is the other end of the spectrum with cancer that looks nothing like normal prostate cells. Grades 2, 3 and 4 are stages in between.
Prostate biopsy specimens are sent to the pathologist to grade. When the pathologist examines the tissue, he or she assigns a grade to the two areas in which most of the cancer is found. These two grades are added together to produce a Gleason score between two and 10. The higher the Gleason score, the more aggressive the cancer is.
One treatment offered for prostate cancer is the radical prostatectomy, which is the surgical removal of the entire prostate. There are three options for a prostatectomy:
An open prostatectomy is performed by making a large incision in the abdomen and removing the prostate and surrounding tissues and lymph nodes.
Laparoscopic prostatectomy is performed by making five to six keyhole incisions in the abdomen. Learn more about laparoscopic prostatectomy.
Robotic prostatectomy is performed by creating four to six small keyhole incisions in the abdomen. Learn more about robotic prostatectomy.
For all three procedures above, a pelvic drain may be placed to help drain any fluid post surgery. This drain may be removed prior to discharge or at the follow-up appointment in the clinic. A urinary catheter that drains your bladder will remain in place until your follow-up visit.
Seed Implants, or Brachytherapy, is where small radioactive pellets or “seeds” are implanted into the prostate tissue to treat prostate cancer. This treatment is set up after a consultation with a radiation oncologist. Learn more about this featured treatment technology, seed implants.
Radiation therapy is the use of high energy X-rays or electrons to kill cancer cells. Large, specialized X-ray machines called linear accelerators are used to create the X-rays, which are invisible to the eye. During treatment, the machine's X-ray beam is directed to the area of the body with the cancer.
Radiation may also be given in a form called brachytherapy, placing radioactive seeds or other materials in the affected area of the body. Radiation is released from these seeds or implants directly into the area of the cancer.
Radiation therapy is used to treat cancers of the lung, breast, brain, prostate, cervix, uterus and other organs. Most radiation therapies are scheduled as five treatments a week, given Monday through Friday, for a period of six to eight weeks.
A team of highly-trained professionals work with you during your treatment. The doctor is a radiation oncologist, a physician who specializes in using radiation to treat cancer. Treatments are given by licensed radiation therapists, who follow a plan for treatment prescribed by the doctor. Specialists in radiation energy and how it works (physicists), radiation dosing (dosimetrists) and radiation nursing are other members of your treatment team. Using highly sophisticated technology, these professionals work together to make your treatment comfortable and convenient.
Learn more about radiation therapy at Memorial's Regional Cancer Center.