No man wants to hear the sentence, "You have prostate cancer," but more than 190,000 men in the United States will be told that this year.
Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in this country, but the good news is that the death rate is decreasing. In fact, when prostate cancer is detected early and treated properly, men have a five-year survival rate of nearly 99%. But choosing the right therapy remains a daunting task for men facing this disease and their families.
Trying to learn about the diagnosis and the treatment options can be difficult. Choosing between external beam radiation therapy (proton therapy and IMRT), surgery (open vs. robotic-assisted) and brachytherapy (radioactive seed implant) can create anxiety for even the most informed patient.
One size does not fit all
As a prostate cancer specialist, I would say that there is no one perfect therapy for every single patient, but I do try to give each patient all the information he needs to make the right decision for his case. While I want to effectively treat my patient's cancer, I also want to preserve his quality of life -- during and after treatment -- as much as possible.
All definitive treatments for prostate cancer carry the chance of side effects, which vary depending on the actual therapy and the patient. But we are always striving to minimize these effects by selecting the appropriate treatment for each patient.
External beam radiation therapy is one of the most effective and flexible treatments for a wide range of prostate cancers. It can effectively treat localized disease, as well as more locally-advanced tumors, with good results.
Proton therapy a good option
Technologic advances also have improved our ability to deliver higher radiation doses to the prostate, while decreasing the risk of normal tissue damage. Proton therapy is one example of how advanced technology can be used to help treat patients, since the unique physical properties of protons allow higher radiation doses to be deposited at the tumor while minimizing unnecessary exposure to surrounding normal organs. This may result in improved cure rates with fewer side effects and can be done using just a few beams (one right-sided and one left-sided beam), which is something that cannot be done with even the most advanced X-ray techniques.
MD Anderson is fortunate to be one of a few centers in the world with proton therapy available for our patients.
Proton treatments typically take only 15 to 20 minutes each day and are delivered five days a week for approximately seven to eight weeks. Most patients tolerate the treatments extremely well and are able to continue to work and exercise during their treatment course and immediately after treatment is complete.
Proton therapy is one of the most flexible treatment options available for prostate cancer. At MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center, we've treated a wide range of tumor stages of prostate cancer as well as a variety of patients with proton therapy. So, it may indeed be an excellent option for many men, depending on their unique situation.
No matter what you decide to do, begin by talking with your oncologist. And don't be afraid to ask and get in-depth details about all of your options.