Prostate cancer treatment options
There’s no longer a one-size-fits all treatment plan for prostate cancer. Learn the facts. Know your options. Choose what’s best.
Once you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer, the best approach is to take your time to educate yourself. Big decisions deserve a second opinion.
By reviewing these pages, you will learn more about prostate cancer treatment options. You can then begin to formulate your questions to ask when you visit Willamette Valley Cancer Institute and Research Center. We’re here to help you make informed decisions about a treatment plan that’s best for you.
Active Surveillance of Prostate Cancer
If prostate cancer treatment is recommended, consider getting a second opinion. It’s important to learn the facts.
Because prostate cancer is a slow-growing cancer, it’s typically treatable and may not require treatment. Take the time to learn your category of risk, and talk with your oncologist about your options. When it comes to prostate cancer, there are many factors to consider — elevated PSA (prostate-specific antigen), Gleason score, age, stage of cancer and more.
If detected early, immediate treatment may be unnecessary. Depending on your situation, active surveillance may be the best choice. Studies show that some men treated for prostate cancer in the past would have benefited from active surveillance, which is not the same as doing nothing.
With active surveillance, you can get a clearer picture of how active the cancer is and whether treatment is needed. It gives you time to talk to specialists, such as surgeons and a radiology oncologists, and review information available through reputable online websites, such as the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute.
Precise Radiation therapy
Advances in technology have given radiation oncologists and technicians the ability to pinpoint prostate cancer and avoid or minimize damage to surrounding healthy tissue during radiation treatment.
Radiation therapy is an option for men with prostate cancer at any stage. Men with early stage prostate cancer may choose radiation therapy instead of surgery. It can also be used after surgery to destroy any cancer cells that remain in the area. Men with prostate cancer in later stages can benefit from radiation treatment to relieve pain.
Before treatment, your radiation oncologist will use CT simulation to map the precise location of the prostate, which makes it possible for the doctor to specify which area to treat and areas to avoid.
At WVCI, we use SmartArc and Calypso technologies to deliver radiation very precisely to the cancer cells, while avoiding healthy tissue.
We are the only cancer center in the region to offer stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) for prostate cancer. SBRT kills prostate cancer cells while minimizing exposure to surrounding, healthy tissue by using advanced imaging techniques to deliver a high dose of radiation that is directed to a tumor with millimeter precision.
Traditionally, patients with localized prostate cancer would undergo surgery or eight to nine weeks of radiation therapy. For prostate cancer patients who meet specific criteria and have appropriate indications, SBRT is administered in five sessions, as opposed to 45.
SBRT is a promising option for patients who have early-stage prostate cancer. This technology may also be used to treat medically inoperable tumors or tumors that have recurred after previous radiation treatments.
When patients undergo radiation therapy, it’s common for them to ask: What will it feel like?
At Willamette Valley Cancer Institute, we deliver a variety of radiation treatments using the Trilogy Linear Accelerator by Varian Medical Systems. Its powerful, advanced motion management capabilities make it possible to treat tumors with precision and efficiency.
“Typically, patients are amazed after their first few treatments, because it’s kind of like getting an X-ray,” says WVCI radiation oncologist Dr. David C. Fryefield. “You lie on the table, you don’t move and the machine rotates around you.”
The radiation is stronger than that used for an X-ray, but the procedure is painless. Each highly targeted treatment lasts only a few minutes, although the setup time—getting you into place for treatment—takes longer.
Patients often ask if radiation treatment will make them sick or make their hair fall out. The answer, Dr. Fryefield says, is no.
“The radiation only goes where it’s supposed to go. The goal is to hurt the cancer and keep the healthy tissue happy.”
At WVCI, an expertly trained team, lead by the patient’s radiation oncologist, creates a customized, individualized plan of treatment for each patient.
With today’s advanced techniques, the side effects of radiation treatment are usually minimal and will recede.
Patients don’t feel anything during treatment, and because there are no immediate side effects patients are able to drive to and from their treatment sessions.
Side effects happen over the course of a few weeks, and the extent depends on the individual and the area being treated.
Our team of prostate cancer experts plays a vital role in planning your treatment.
Our medical dosimetrist is highly skilled and trained to understand how radiation oncology treatment machines and equipment work and have the expertise needed to generate radiation dose distributions and dose calculations in collaboration with our medical physicists and your radiation oncologist.
We have three physicists who oversee the technical aspects of your radiation therapy and who supervise quality assurance and radiation safety procedures by checking each radiation plan and running it through a series of safety checks before our radiation therapists administer the radiation treatments.
What happens if prostate cancer returns after radiation or surgery?
If your prostate-specific antigen (PSA) numbers rise after a definitive therapy, such as surgery or radiation, for most patients, there will be no other evidence of the disease. That’s good news because, in most cases, treatment is unnecessary right away.
If your PSA is rising, a bone and CAT scan is usually ordered to see whether the cancer has spread. If the prostate cancer does spread, the vast majority of cases show in the bones first, then the lymph nodes or abdomen. But this scenario is fairly uncommon when doctors see PSA rising after therapy.
With a slow-rising PSA, your oncologist will track it over time and perform periodic scans to find any cancer growth. It’s not a “sit back and watch” approach. Rather, with active surveillance, the doctor looks at very precise measurements over time to monitor changes.
For most patients, checks happen every two to three months. But all treatment plans are individualized to the patient’s case and comfort level.
When your doctor is ready to treat a high PSA, the first intervention is typically Lupron, a drug that lowers testosterone levels, which cancer feeds on.
There are two possible ways to take Lupron: intermittently or continuously. The data shows that continuous Lupron is slightly better than intermittent Lupron, but the side effects are more significant. The best course of action is to individualize.
Individualized treatment plans are the most important aspect of cancer care, as our understanding of cancer has advanced and the treatments have become more focused on specific abnormalities.
Chemotherapy is rarely the first option, even when a large mass is found. There are now a multitude of options before chemotherapy is recommended. Hormonal medicines are more specific in the enzymes they target, which means fewer side effects and a more effective treatment. There are also new medicines and molecular drugs that target specific proteins that cancer cells rely on to grow.
Before you make a decision, we recommend that you seek several opinions and review your options. We are here to help you learn the facts, know your options and choose what’s best for you.