Commonly Asked Questions About Prostate Cancer
Jeffrey Grass, MD, a radiation oncologist with OHC and one of OHC's team of experts in the use of CyberKnife for prostate cancer, answers some of the most common questions men ask about prostate cancer and treatment., Blogs, 8 comments
March 1, 2019
Q: What are the signs of prostate cancer?
A: Early prostate cancer usually causes no symptoms. Some advanced prostate cancers can slow or weaken your urinary stream or make you need to urinate more often, especially at night. But non-cancerous diseases of the prostate cause these symptoms more often. Contact your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms:
- Weak or interrupted flow of urine
- Frequent urination (especially at night)
- Trouble urinating
- Pain or burning during urination
- Blood in the urine or semen
- A pain in the back, hips, or pelvis that doesn’t go away
Q: How do you test for prostate cancer?
A: Two most common tests are a digital rectal exam (DRE) and a prostate specific antigen (PSA).
DRE is a test in which the doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into a man’s rectum and feels the surface of the prostate through the bowel wall for any irregularities.
There is controversy about using the PSA test to look for prostate cancer in men with no symptoms of the disease. On the one hand, the PSA test is useful for detecting early-stage prostate cancer, especially in men with many risk factors, which helps some men get the treatment they need before the cancer grows and spreads. On the other hand, PSA screening finds conditions that are not cancer, such as BPH, in addition to very-slow-growing prostate cancers that would never threaten a man’s life. As a result, screening for prostate cancer with PSA may mean that some men have surgery and other treatments that may not be needed, which can cause side effects and seriously affect a man’s quality of life.
The American Society of Clinical Oncologists (ASCO) recommends that men with no symptoms of prostate cancer not receive PSA screening if they are expected to live less than 10 years. For men expected to live longer than 10 years, ASCO recommends that they talk with their doctors to find out if the test is appropriate for them.
Q: When should I start getting regular check-ups for it?
A: Everyone is different so we always suggest that you talk with your doctor to determine what’s best for you based on your medical history, current health and your family’s medical history.
Q: If I have an enlarged prostate, does that automatically mean cancer?
A: No. It could be benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), non-cancerous abnormal cell growth or inflammation of the prostate.
Q: What if it is cancer?
A: If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, your treatment will depend on a number of factors including how early your cancer was found, how fast it’s growing, if it has spread, and your general health. Some common treatments include:
- Watchful waiting is common for early-stage prostate cancers. Your doctor will simply monitor your symptoms over time before choosing a treatment.
- Radiation therapy uses high-energy particles to kill cancer cells. This can be done outside the body (external beam radiation) or inside the body (brachytherapy).
- Hormone therapy, in injectable or oral forms, is used in men with advanced prostate cancer to shrink and slow the growth of tumors. It’s sometimes used in combination with radiation therapy.
- Surgery involves removal of the prostate gland (radical prostatectomy), some surrounding tissue and a few lymph nodes. There are a number of ways the radical prostatectomy procedure can be performed, all of which should be discussed with your physician.
Q: Why should I choose OHC for my treatment?
A: At OHC, we assemble a team of experts to plan your care – and you are at the center of that team. The team may include a radiation oncologist, medical oncologist, urologist, nurse navigator, and other clinical and non-clinician team members.
Together, OHC and The Urology Group offer many men diagnosed with prostate cancer stereotactic body radiotherapy using a Cyberknife, one of the most advanced treatments used for prostate cancer. CyberKnife (which isn’t a knife) is nonsurgical, painless radiation technology that can reduce or eliminate certain lesions and tumors, many previously considered inoperable. Here in Cincinnati, CyberKnife has been used for nearly five years to treat men with early stage prostate cancer.
Image-guided cameras locate the position of the prostate and radiation remains focused on the target throughout the procedure. This allows the CyberKnife to compensate for gland movement during treatment and avoid the adjacent bladder and bowel. CyberKnife treatments can be accomplished by an OHC radiation oncologist in just five visits, and the side effects may be less than other forms of radiation used to treat prostate cancer.
As always, our OHC doctors and staff are with you through your entire journey, not just during tests and visits. We’re with you from the first time we talk on the phone until you no longer need our services. That’s our goal: to provide you with the support, strength and services you need so you can focus on beating cancer. For more information about prostate cancer and treatments, visit ohcare.com.
Sources: OHC, the National Cancer Institute and the American Society of Clinical Oncologists