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Prostate cancer is typically a very slow-growing cancer that may take decades to become threatening. About 217,730 men will be diagnosed with the disease this year, the National Cancer Institute estimates, and the disease will claim about 32,050 lives.
The prostate, a small organ about the size of a walnut, is below the bladder (where urine is stored) and surrounds the urethra. Researchers estimate that one in four men have some cancerous prostate cells by age 50; by age 80, that number rises to one in two. Caught early while the cancer is still within the prostate, the disease is highly curable. About 95% of all prostate cancers are of the slow-growing type known as adenocarcinoma.
Wellstar Health System provides superior care for prostate cancer, offering a comprehensive spectrum of top-notch physicians, treatment options and diagnostic tools. In addition Wellstar offers such innovative advantages in the fight against prostate cancer, including:
Early stage prostate cancer is highly treatable through surgery or radiation. Chemotherapy, hormone therapy and biological agents have been effective in keeping the disease from spreading for a time.
And there is new hope for those with advanced disease, as new drugs have just received FDA approval to treat it. One such drug, Provenge®, actually uses a man’s own cells to produce a “vaccine” that will help keep his prostate cancer from returning for a while. Provenge® is only for use in advanced disease, and not all patients are candidates for it. Talk to your Wellstar physician to determine if you may be a candidate for this therapy.
While some of these symptoms can also be symptoms of something far less serious, it is important to see your Wellstar physician if any of these symptoms persist for more than two weeks.
Maintaining an ideal body weight is important in the prevention of many cancers. Because obesity appears to be a risk factor for prostate cancer, it is important to eat a diet with several servings of fruits and vegetables each day and to keep saturated fats to a minimum. Exercise is also important.
If you smoke, please consider getting help to quit through one of Wellstar’s tobacco cessation programs. WellStar physicians know that not smoking is one of the most important things a person can do to avoid cancer.
Avoid excess body fat by limiting caloric intake and/or balance caloric intake with ample moderate-to-vigorous exercise.
Limit alcoholic beverages to no more than one a day.
Wellstar physicians are highly trained in a range of tests that detect prostate cancer. Some tests to detect prostate cancer will be done during your yearly physical exam, regardless of whether you have any symptoms of prostate cancer. Others will be done based on symptoms and, specifically, if your Wellstar physician notices that your prostate gland is enlarged:
There are several ways your Wellstar physician will diagnose prostate cancer, depending on size and stage, including:
When prostate cancer is diagnosed, your Wellstar physician will categorize it by the current stage. Each stage describes the progression of the disease and whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. You should talk to your Wellstar physician to understand each stage, and what it means for your treatment plan.
Your team of specialists in medical oncology, surgery, radiation oncology, radiology and pathology will work together to assess your best course of prostate cancer treatment. That will involve the creation of a coordinated plan, staging the disease and designing a personalized treatment plan consistent with the highest standards of care. Your treatment will be tailored to your specific type of prostate cancer, and it may involve a combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.
Much will be determined on the stage of your disease and your Gleason score. Because prostate cancer is a very slow growing cancer, your Wellstar physician may recommend something called “watchful waiting,” or “expectant management” of your disease.
If your cancer is confined to the prostate gland, and if your Gleason score is low, you may want to consider watchful waiting, which involves no surgical treatment or radiation, but only testing at certain intervals to discern your PSA levels. This is a highly personal decision, and your Wellstar physician is prepared to discuss this decision process with you.
Wellstar offers some of the best prostate cancer surgeons in the nation, critically important when determining your treatment options. Because the prostate gland lies so close to nerve bundles and muscles which affect urination and sexual function, it is extremely important to have an expert comprise your treatment team.
You may have different surgical options, depending on the location of your tumor and whether it has spread.
A procedure known as a radical prostatectomy is the most frequently performed surgery for prostate cancer. In that procedure, the Wellstar surgeon will remove your prostate gland. He may also remove nearby lymph nodes if they, too, have cancer cells.
Today, you may have a choice about whether you choose robotic surgery, generally less invasive, or more traditional prostatectomy. Outcomes for both are comparable, studies show, and in both, your prostate gland will be removed. Your Wellstar physician is ready to discuss your options with you and understands that this decision can be difficult.
They also will encourage you to discuss your surgical options with your partner. Wellstar physicians are extremely capable and adept at sparing nerve bundles and nearby muscles. This is extremely important, as an important goal of prostate surgery is for a man to maintain sexual and bladder function.
The first and most effective treatment for patients in stopping the spread of prostate cancer is testosterone blocking therapy. This can be accomplished through the removal of the testicles or regular injections of medication. Prostate cancer is fueled in part by testosterone. Thus, by removing certain hormones or blocking their action is useful in treating some prostate cancers. There are several different drugs that work in a variety of ways to block the production of testosterone. These drugs may have side effects such as hot flashes, impaired sexual functions and a loss of interest in sex. Your Wellstar physician can discuss any concerns you have about this type of therapy and whether you are a candidate for it.
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs given by mouth or injection to destroy cancer cells. It can be used to assist in the cure of cancer patients or to prolong life or the quality of life. Chemotherapy has a role in prostate cancer if the disease has spread beyond the prostate and becomes resistant to testosterone blocking drugs.
Radiation or more commonly, Cyberknife, can be used to cure some early stage patients who are not candidates for surgery.
There are two types of radiation therapy to discuss with your Wellstar physician if you have prostate cancer. External beam radiation involves a machine outside the body sending radiation toward the cancer. There is also a process called internal radiation to treat prostate cancer. Internal radiation, sometimes called brachytherapy, involves radioactive “seeds,” wires or sometimes needles being surgically inserted into the body and left there. Once inside, the seeds will emit radiation directly to the prostate.
At Wellstar, radiation is administered by radiation oncologists in consultation with medical oncologists and surgeons. And several innovative radiation therapies are offered, including two found to be extremely effective against difficult cases of prostate cancer:
Your Wellstar physician has experience in all forms of radiation therapy for prostate cancer and will guide you to the best decision for you.
Cancer care at Wellstar is more than advanced technology, clinical research, and highly specialized physicians and nurses. It includes an array of supportive care services to improve the patient experience before, during and after treatment. All of these services are available within the Wellstar system, including:
Wellstar's certified palliative care physicians and certified registered nurses are dedicated to providing compassionate, quality care in various settings, including home hospice, inpatient hospice nursing homes, assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Wellstar offers caring and compassionate hospice care for patients and their families in one of Georgia's oldest hospice programs serving Bartow, Cherokee, Cobb, Douglas and Paulding counties.