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What are the Different Types of Prostate Cancer Treatments?

Article Details
  • Written By: M.R. Anglin
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 03 February 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2019
    Conjecture Corporation
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Prostate cancer is a disease where the cells in the prostate gland divide more rapidly than normal. There are several treatment methods used to treat this type of cancer. Some prostate cancer treatments include watchful waiting, surgery, hormone therapy, radiation, and chemotherapy. The use and combination of these prostate cancer treatments depend on the advancement of the disease as well as the age and health of the patient.

Prostate cancer commonly progresses slowly, so if a patient is young and otherwise healthy, a doctor may prescribe watchful waiting. During this treatment, no procedures to stop the cancer are given to the patient. Rather, the patient will have to visit to the doctor often to determine the progress of the disease. This option can be used if the patient does not want to deal with the side effects connected with the other prostate cancer treatments. A doctor may also recommend this remedy if the patient has a long life expectancy with the disease.

If the prostate cancer is severe and advanced, surgery may be an option. Radical prostatectomy is a surgery in which the entire prostate, the surrounding tissues, and seminal vesicles are removed. Other types of surgeries remove parts of the tissue or the lymph nodes. Some of these surgeries can be used to investigate how far the cancer has spread as well. The surgeries may also have severe side-effects, including impotence and leaking urine and fecal matter.

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Some male sex hormones can contribute to prostate cancer growth. Both healthy and cancerous cells use these hormones to grow. For this reason, hormone therapy is one of the types of prostate cancer treatments that can be used to help slow the progression of cancer. Certain chemicals and some hormones, such as estrogen, can be used to prevent cell growth. There also are special procedures to stop cell growth as well, but it is important to note that these treatments aim to stop all cell growth, healthy and cancerous. Unfortunately, this can lead to severe side-effects as well, such as impotence.

Radiation therapy uses the cancerous cells’ rapid growth and division against them. When cells are exposed to radiation, it can cause damage to cells. Should the cells divide while they are damaged, they will die. Healthy cells will usually repair that damage before they divide, but cancerous cells do not. Thus, the radiation can kill off cancer cells while leaving healthy cells to divide normally.

It is important that radiation used in radiation therapy be aimed carefully, however. Even healthy cells will not be able to repair damage if exposed to too much radiation. The two types of radiation therapy commonly used in prostate cancer treatments are external therapy and internal therapy. External therapy is commonly done five days a week and consists of doses of radiation aimed at the area of the cancer from an external source. With internal therapy, the treatment can be inserted into the body using packets of radiation called seeds that emit radiation over a period of time.

Chemotherapy also is a cancer treatment that uses chemicals to kill cells that divide quickly. Chemotherapy can be a systemic treatment that is injected into the bloodstream or ingested through the mouth to kill cells that divide rapidly all over the body. The therapy can also be regional, or injected into the spinal column, so the drug affects a specific area. The risk with using chemotherapy is that it also kills other cells that divide quickly, such as those in hair follicles and cells in the gastrointestinal tract. This explains why some patients lose their hair or get sick after undergoing such therapy.

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