The Challenge of Treating Prostate Cancer

Posted by on February 27, 2012

Traditionally, there are several treatment options for dealing with prostate cancer. Each one has strengths and drawbacks, which should be discussed at length with a doctor, and deliberated upon, before making a final decision.

The first of these is a form of surgery known as a prostatectomy. While under a general anesthetic, the patient’s entire prostate is removed through an incision, as are the surrounding lymph nodes. This incision is made on the abdomen, or slightly below the scrotum. Whether or not this procedure is successful, it will usually result in some lasting and serious side effects. The patient will almost inevitably suffer some form of permanent erectile dysfunction, or even impotence. Instances of bleeding and incontinence are also widespread.

If the disease isn’t found until after it has spread out of the pelvis, surgery is often ruled out, leaving the option of radiation as the most common alternative. This usually consists of X-rays beamed from a machine, but can also take the form of radioactive seeds implanted directly into the gland. Recovery rates are lower than those of prostatectomy, and here again, there are significant side effects, including blockages of urinary flow and impairments to sexual performance.

Once the cancer has expanded from the prostate into the rest of the body, and the possibility of radiation is ruled out, surgeons will often suggest that the patient’s testicles be removed, in order to starve the cancer of vital hormones. Unfortunately, this procedure can only lessen the painful side-effects of the disease, and slow its progress (often by a matter of years). Once again, erectile dysfunction and impotence are a major risk, as are depression and a significant loss of muscle tissue.

There is, currently, a newer alternative, in an emerging treatment known as High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (or HIFU for short). Here, doctors are able to trace a patient’s prostate via a rectal probe, and deliver a precisely calibrated heat wave to the diseased tissue. Because the procedure is non-invasive, there is little if any damage made to the surrounding organs and tissue.

It must be said that eligibility for HIFU is limited to organ confined prostate cancer victims. Nevertheless, it is a procedure offering real possibilities of recovery, and without the same egregious side effects and risks associated with prostatectomies and doses of radiation. The HIFU prostate cancer treatment should be considered if you are considering alternative prostate cancer treatment options.

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