What does radiotherapy involve?
Radiotherapy uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells in a specific area of the body.
There are two different types of radiotherapy - internal and external.
Internal involves placing a radioactive material, close to the tumour inside the body. Meanwhile, external radiotherapy is given by directing high-energy x-rays in to the prostate from the outside of the body.
Prostate cancer patients usually receive the external form, although men who have been diagnosed early may be treated by placing radioactive seeds inside the tumour.
Can my prostate cancer be operated on?
There are several options available with regards to having surgery to treat prostate cancer and a doctor will be able to advise on what is the best course of action based upon various factors:
- The size of the cancer
- The patient's prognosis
- The patient's general health
- The patient's symptoms
What are the different types of surgery?
There are three operations that are likely to be recommended when treating prostate cancer.
Total or radical prostatectomy
This involves removing the prostate gland completely, either using keyhole surgery or by more traditional techniques using larger incisions. It can cure the cancer if it has not spread beyond the gland.
Here, the patient's testicles are removed so they can no longer produce testosterone, which is a hormone that the cancer uses to develop. While this doesn't cure the cancer, it can help control it.
However, this type of surgery is now rarely used, as doctors prefer to use hormone therapy instead, which is explained in more detail below.
Also known as TUR, the surgeon removes part of the prostate gland around the urethra. This is used to relieve symptoms like being unable to go to the toilet, but - like orchidectomy - it cannot cure the disease.
How can hormone therapy be used to treat prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer relies on testosterone to grow, so scientists have developed hormone therapy as a way to stop this from happening.
By lowering the amount of testosterone in a patient's body, they can slow and even shrink a tumour if it is in an advanced stage.
Hormone treatment can be used either on its own or to complement surgery or radiotherapy, depending on what the patient's circumstances are. For example, it can reduce the risk of the cancer returning after surgery.
This treatment can also be used to control prostate cancer symptoms, although after a few years it is likely the cancer will adapt and start to grow again, at which point the patient will have to reconsider their options.
Remember, clinical trials to improve the survival rate of prostate cancer are taking place all the time, so it's likely that in the future, the number of options available to patients will only increase.