Treatment and care of people with cancer is usually provided by a team of health professionals - called a 'multidisciplinary team'.
Treatment for prostate cancer depends on the stage of the disease, the severity of symptoms and the person's general health. This may be explained as the cancer being not aggressive (less severe) or aggressive (more severe). For some men with small, low-grade prostate cancers (not aggressive), treatment will not be recommended. You will need to discuss your options with your doctor or specialist.
Treatment options can include:
- Watchful waiting - sometimes your doctor will advise you that treatment is not needed. However, you will still need to be examined and have PSA tests regularly to monitor any changes. This is usually for older men (over 70) with a slow-growing cancer. This is because older patients with slowly growing cancer are more likely to die of something other than prostate cancer. If the cancer begins to grow too fast or you develop symptoms, then your doctor will discuss treatment to help control your symptoms.
- Active surveillance - means regular PSA tests and repeat biopsies. It is sometimes offered to younger men with a very early-stage prostate cancer. It involves very close monitoring with early treatment for men with evidence that their disease is progressing.
- Active treatments
- Surgery - removal of the prostate is called a 'radical prostatectomy'. The operation can be performed by open surgery (the traditional way), or by a 'keyhole' (laparoscopic) approach, or by using advanced instruments controlled by a robot . Depending on whether the surgery is open or 'keyhole', the hospital stay is between 1 and 10 days. Recovery can take up to 6 weeks.
- Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) - if the prostate can't be removed, TURP surgery may be performed to remove blockages in the prostate to relieve urination problems.
- External radiotherapy - X-rays are used to target and destroy cancer cells. Treatment usually lasts a few weeks, although this depends on the cancer and the person's general health.
- Internal radiotherapy (brachytherapy) - a radioactive implant is placed inside the prostate to target cancer cells. The implant may be temporary or permanent.
- Hormone therapy - prostate cancer relies on the hormone testosterone for growth. Hormone therapy reduces testosterone levels and 'starves' the tumour - this is given with either medication or hormone injections. Sometimes, surgical removal of the testicles (orchidectomy) is suggested, which has the same effect.
- Chemotherapy - In some cases if the treatment for prostate cancer is not responding then your specialists may discuss use of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy aims to directly kill cancer cells and may be given in a series of treatments over weeks or months
- The area of treating prostate cancer is changing rapidly and your doctor may discuss new and emerging therapies that may improve the treatment of your cancer.
When used alongside your conventional cancer treatment, some of these therapies may make you feel better while others may not be so helpful and in some cases may be harmful. You should discuss with your doctor or specialist before using any other therapies.
Research is ongoing to find new ways to diagnose and treat different types of cancer. Some people may be offered the option of participation in a clinical trial to test new ways of treating prostate cancer.
Cancer Council Australia can provide more information on cancer treatments through their website at www.cancer.org.au. They also offer support for you and your loved ones via their helpline on 13 11 20.
Last reviewed: October 2016