Prostate cancer is the most common cancer affecting New Zealand men. Based on information from the Ministry of Health, approximately 3,000 men are diagnosed each year and about 600 deaths from prostate cancer occur each year in New Zealand.
Why Is Prostate Cancer so Common and Deadly?
Statistics reveal that 1 in 9 men will have prostate cancer in later life. When men age, they reduce sexual activity and glands like the prostate are not used as often. The prostate gland can have abnormal cell division and grow in ways which can eventually lead to cancer. In this article, we’re going to learn the various modern methods used to treat prostate cancer.
How Is Prostate Cancer Treated?
- Active Surveillance – Because prevention is always better than cure, active surveillance is a form of close cancer monitoring which involves doctors checking your prostate health every six months. This often includes prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test, digital rectal exam (DRE) and intermittent prostate biopsy and/or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the prostate.
- Surgery – A good option to cure prostate cancer is surgery. Surgery is recommended for curing prostate cancer if the cancer has not spread outside the prostate gland. During the surgery, the prostate and all affected tissue is removed from the body. There are three kinds of prostate cancer surgery that can be done:
- Radical (open) prostatectomy – removal of the whole prostate gland and seminal vesicles. Sometimes lymph nodes in the pelvic area are removed in the process.
- Laparoscopic prostatectomy – removal of the prostate gland and seminal vesicles +/- lymph nodes using keyhole surgery. This is less invasive and patients have a shorter recovery time.
- Bilateral orchiectomy – removal of testicles as a form of castration to stop hormones from making the prostate cancer cells. This is used for prostate cancer that is incurable and has spread beyond the prostate. More commonly an injection is now given instead, to create a chemical castration.
- Radiation Therapy – Using high energy rays, cancer cells are targeted and killed. This is a good treatment for curing prostate cancer in its early stage. Radiation therapy can also be given after surgery if the cancer comes back, or if the cancer is so advanced it needs to be controlled to prevent spreading to other glands and cells of the body.
- Cryotherapy – Using cold temperature, cancer is frozen and killed. Unlike surgery, cryotherapy is far less invasive, results in less blood loss and patients generally have shorter recovery time. This may not be suitable for all prostate cancers.
- Hormone Therapy – This method focuses on stopping testosterone from reaching the prostate cancer cells. Hormone therapy helps reduce prostate cancer but isn’t a cure for it. Hormone therapy is often used in conjunction with radiotherapy to properly treat prostate cancer. It is also used instead of surgical castration, for incurable prostate cancer.
- Vaccine Treatment – A vaccine specially made to boost the immune system so it can attack prostate cancer cells. Each vaccine is specifically created for each patient. Creating it requires a special machine and starts with taking a sample of your white blood cells. Once sent to the lab, the cells are exposed to a protein from prostate cancer cells called prostatic acid phosphatase (PAP). After the process, the cells are given back to you through vein infusion. The vaccine does not cure prostate cancer, but has been shown to help men live several months longer, who have advanced prostate cancer that no longer responds to hormone therapy.
Prostate cancer and other prostate problems can be successfully treated, especially if detected early. Contact us if you have concerns.