Treatment for prostate cancer can leave lasting side effects, but one approach, cryotherapy, offers the chance of improved quality of life after treatment.
Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in American men, with one in every nine being diagnosed with the illness during his lifetime. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men behind lung cancer. While prostate cancer can be a serious disease, some prostate cancers will grow slowly and will not alter one’s life expectancy.
That’s why diagnosis and treatment of the disease is so important. Slow-growing prostate cancers can be treated with “watchful waiting.” However, if the disease is aggressive, it usually requires treatment, especially in younger men. Men can live many years after diagnosis, so effective treatment that preserves quality of life is important. Cryotherapy offers another option in treating prostate cancer that has benefits over standard treatment.
Understanding Prostate Cancer
The prostate, which is located right below the bladder, is a gland in the male reproductive system. It’s about the size of a chestnut, and its main function is to produce a fluid that is combined with sperm cells from the testicles, and fluid from other glands to produce semen.
The risk of getting prostate cancer increases with age, particularly after the age of 50. This type of cancer occurs more often in African-American men and in Caribbean men of African ancestry, but researchers are not sure of the reason. Family history also may play a role, however, most prostate cancers occur in men without a family connection.
Symptoms of prostate cancer can include difficulty urinating or getting an erection, blood in the urine, pain in the hips, back, or chest, or weakness or numbness in the legs or feet. While these problems often can be caused by other issues, it is important to talk with your doctor if you have any concerns.
The survival rate for prostate cancer is very encouraging. According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year relative survival rate is 99 percent, the 10-year relative survival rate is 98 percent and the 15-year relative survival rate is 96 percent. The relative survival rate compares men who have that cancer with the survival rate of men who were not diagnosed with it.
Treatment of Prostate Cancer
One of the most common ways to treat prostate cancer is removal of the prostate. Statistically, surgery achieves the best chance of a cure, but it also can result in significant side effects such as incontinence (inability to control urine) and impotence (inability to maintain an erection).Radiation is another common treatment, using X-rays to target the cancer. Daily treatment sessions of about 15 minutes may be required for two months. Temporary side effects can include pain during urination, diarrhea, bleeding from the rectum and painful bowel movements. These often go away after a few months, however, 50 percent of men report impotence five years after treatment.
Cryotherapy is a newer approach to treating prostate cancer. It is FDA-approved and is being used at leading cancer institutions. This minimally invasive process targets the cancer directly and kills cancer cells by freezing them. Cryotherapy is an outpatient procedure that typically requires a one-hour treatment. The pro
cess has less risk of incontinence and newer techniques can reduce the incidence of erectile dysfunction. In addition, it does not have the long-term risk of bladder and rectal injuries that sometimes are seen in radiation. Recovery time is short —usually about a week. Also, in select cases, a process called focal therapy may be applicable. This is used when the cancer is localized to one side of the prostate. Only half of the prostate or less is treated, greatly reducing the incidence of erectile dysfunction.
Not everyone is a good candidate for cryotherapy, but if you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer, it’s good to know your options. If you think this therapy may be right for you, please contact your doctor for more information.
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