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prostate cancer

overview

Prostate cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer among American men, with approximately 230,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the U.S.. In fact, 1 in every 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. 

When found in its earliest stage, prostate cancer is very treatable. Screening is encouraged for all men once they turn 50. It’s especially encouraged for those at high risk for developing prostate cancer, including African American men and those with an immediate family history.

symptoms

Signs of prostate cancer may include:

  • A need to urinate frequently, especially at night
  • Difficulty urinating 
  • Difficulty having an erection
  • Painful urination or ejaculation
  • Blood in urine or semen

diagnosis

Beginning at age 50 (or 40 if you have a significant family history of the disease or are at higher risk), the American Cancer Society recommends that you have a discussion with your doctor about prostate cancer screening. Screening methods include:

  • Digital rectal exam (DRE): Your doctor will insert a gloved finger into your rectum and feel your prostate for abnormalities.
  • PSA (prostate specific antigen) test: This is a blood test that measures PSA, high levels of which can indicate prostate cancer.

If your doctor suspects you have prostate cancer, he or she may order additional tests, such as:

  • Transrectal ultrasound: A probe is inserted into your rectum to measure your prostate volume and scan for tumor masses.
  • Transrectal ultrasound-guided biopsy: A probe is inserted into your rectum up to your prostate, and then several small samples of tissue are removed for evaluation.

services & treatment

If cancerous cells are found during testing, your doctor will use the Gleason System to rate the cells on a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 being the most normal and 5 being the most abnormal. The Gleason Score is used to indicate your prostate cancer’s aggressiveness, which helps determine the best treatment. Your options may include:

Active surveillance: For some men, a “watch and wait” approach may be an option. In that case, your doctor will perform a PSA test and a digital rectal exam every 3 to 6 months. You may also need an annual prostate biopsy. If the disease begins to progress, you’ll require further treatment. 

Surgery: Risks of surgery include urinary incontinence or impotence, though these side effects may lessen over time. The older you are, the greater your risk of complications. 

Prostatectomy: Traditional surgery involves removing your prostate entirely. It is only a viable choice if the cancer is confined to your prostate area and hasn’t spread.

Laparoscopic surgery: Micro-surgical instruments are inserted through small incisions in your abdomen and then used to remove your prostate.

Robotic surgery: These precise procedures require smaller incisions, which can help speed the recovery process. Since acquiring the state-of-the-art daVinci® Surgical System in 2003, Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center has performed thousands of operations using robotic surgery – more than any other hospital in Wisconsin.

Cryosurgery: A probe inserted into your prostate freezes the tissue to kill cancer cells. This procedure can be repeated if needed. Unfortunately, data is not yet available as to the long-term effectiveness. 

Radiation therapy: Just like surgery, radiation treatment can cause impotence, though it may not occur right away, but rather over time. There are 2 types of radiation therapy:

  • External beam radiation sends beams of high-energy X-rays through your skin to target and kill cancer cells. There are several different methods, including 3D conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT), intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), Calypso 4D System, CyberKnife®.
  • Brachytherapy involves implanting radioactive seeds in your prostate to kill cancer cells. This method of treatment may have fewer side effects than external beam radiation. On May 21, 2014, Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center performed its 1,000th radioactive seed implantation.

Hormone therapy: Although hormone therapy won’t cure prostate cancer, it can slow cancer growth. It’s often recommended in addition to another form of treatment. 

Chemotherapy: These drugs help prevent the cancer from spreading to other parts of your body. Chemo is also used if you have advanced prostate cancer that isn’t responding to hormonal therapy. 

Immunotherapy: This treatment stimulates your immune system to identify and destroy cancer cells without affecting healthy tissue. Cancer vaccines use your own cells to trigger your immune system to attack prostate cancer cells.

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