Can prostate cancer be completely cured?
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men. The average age of diagnosis is 66 year olds, although it may affect younger men as well. By age 80, more than half of all men have some cancerous growth in their prostate.
Due to routine screening of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels in the United States, nearly 90% of prostate cancers get detected in early stages. In most cases, the cancer is confined only to the prostate and does not spread to other organs. With the widespread use of screening tests in the United States, early diagnosis of prostate cancer has become much easier.
When found early, there are several treatment options available and prostate cancer has a high chance of getting cured. Moreover, prostate cancer is a slow-growing cancer that takes many years to become big enough to cause symptoms. It also takes quite long to spread to other organs. This gives sufficient time for the doctors to treat it.
Oncologists recommend patients to not rush and take some time to understand the various treatment options available after consulting with more than one doctor. Patients can discuss various modes of treatment with the doctor and select the most appropriate option for their prostate cancer.
The 5-year survival rate for most men with local or regional prostate cancer is nearly 100%. There are more than three million survivors of prostate cancer in the United States today.
Interestingly, most men with prostate cancer die of some other illnesses and not prostate cancer.
What is the most effective treatment for prostate cancer?
The choice of treatment for prostate cancer depends on many factors such as the patient’s prostate cancer risk as calculated from prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels, Gleason score, and tumor staging. Patients can discuss the significance of these factors in the choice of treatment with their doctor.
The standard effective treatment choices for men with early-stage prostate cancer are as follows
- Active surveillance: Monitoring the progression/status of the low-risk or early-stage cancer with regular testing and not treating it right away.
- Prostatectomy: Surgical removal of the prostate.
- Radiation therapy: Use of high-energy waves to destroy cancer cells.
Radiation therapy is one of the most effective treatments for many men with early-stage prostate cancer. It is also the best prostate cancer therapy for older men or those with other co-existing diseases. It can be delivered to the patient in any of the two ways
- External beam radiation: Sending/focusing high-energy waves from an external machine into the tumor.
- Brachytherapy: Placing a radioactive dye in the tumor through an implant or hollow tubes.
For metastatic prostate cancer, androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) is usually the choice of treatment. ADT is also the only option in patients with prostate cancer who are unfit or unwilling to undergo surgery or/and radiation therapy.
What happens if prostate cancer is left untreated?
Treatment may not be initiated straightaway after the diagnosis of early-stage cancer. Instead, an observational approach known as active surveillance is adopted. This means that the doctors monitor the status of the prostate cancer with physical examinations and by conducting regular prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests every three months. Because prostate cancer is a slow-growing tumor, it can be observed untreated for some time. This approach is usually adopted in patients with some low-risk cancers and symptomless cancers. Patients can utilize this time to learn about the available treatment options along with their risks and benefits. This helps them decide the most appropriate treatment in consultation with their doctor.
Advanced-stage prostate cancers cannot be left untreated because they become life-threatening within a very short time.
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