The United States alone sees more than 3 million cases of prostate cancer each year. Prostate cancer is a cancer located in a man’s prostate, the small gland that produces seminal fluid. For obvious reasons, this type of cancer only affects men, or those with male biology. Men of 60 years and over fall in the largest age group affected by prostate cancer, though it can be found in men as young as 19 years old.
Because this cancer is so common, especially among older men, it’s crucial that men get checked periodically by a medical professional. In the past it was recommended that men get regular prostate exams beginning at the age of 50. Today that number has been lowered to 40. Prostate exams consist of two parts: Rectal examination and blood test for prostate specific antigen (PSA).
While having regular prostate exams is a good way to detect prostate cancer early on, there is still no surefire way to prevent it. Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, eating well, and staying away from chemical exposure are all ways to lower your risk of getting prostate cancer, as well as other forms of cancer. Unfortunately, genes seem to play the largest role in determining one’s likelihood of getting this cancer. But even if you or a loved one has prostate cancer, there are treatments out there, especially if you catch it early enough. Here are three prostate cancer options to help fight against it, or even cure it.
1) Prostate Surgery
If the cancer has remained restricted to the prostate, medical professionals can perform surgery to remove the gland from the body entirely. This is known as radical prostatectomy. There are different methods of radical prostatectomy, but they all involve removing the prostate and possibly nearby affected areas such as the seminal vesicles and lymph nodes.
This surgery is effective but can lead to several side effects, such as erectile dysfunction and incontinence. Additionally, the removal of the prostate and surrounding areas will result in infertility. This is because the prostate produces the seminal fluid that allows sperm to pass through. For older men, this might not be a big issue, while it certainly will matter more for younger men.
2) Proton Therapy for Prostate Cancer
Proton radiation therapy is a type of radiation treatment for cancer. What differentiates proton treatment is that it’s more focused than standard radiation treatment. Standard radiation therapy not only affects the cancerous tissue, it also goes somewhat beyond, harming perfectly healthy tissue. Proton radiation therapy, on the other hand, targets a very specific portion of the affected tissue, and stops before reaching healthy tissue. This makes proton treatment safer and more effective. There is also less risk of further complications associated with standard radiation therapy, such as impotence, pain, and more.
When prostate cancer is found early enough and the tumor is small, proton therapy is almost completely effective. In fact, 99% of men with low-end prostate cancer treated this way showed no more signs of cancer five years after treatment. This makes proton therapy one of the most effective prostate cancer options among those who detect it early.
3) Hormone Therapy
Of all the prostate cancer options, hormone therapy is the least invasive, but it also cannot cure prostate cancer by itself. For this type of cancer, the hormone therapy used is know as androgen deprivation therapy. Androgens (testosterone and dihydrotestosterone) are the hormones that cause prostate cells to grow. My depriving these hormones, the cancer cells in the prostate will slow down, halting or shrinking the cancer. If surgery or radiation cannot be performed, or the cancer has spread too much for them to be useful, hormone therapy is a good last resort. Hormone therapy can also be used in tandem with radiation treatment to shrink the cancer for easier targeting.
Medical professionals are constantly learning more about prostate cancer, including risk factors, prevention methods, and new, safer ways to treat and cure it. It’s likely that several more prostate cancer options and treatments will be found and available in the near future. Until then, it’s important to live a healthy lifestyle and get checked regularly to avoid getting prostate cancer at all.