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Among American men, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer. The risk of developing prostate cancer increases with age and usually occurs in men age 40 and above and is more frequent in black men than in white men. An estimated 200,000 new cases will be diagnosed in the United States this year. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men.

Although it is not known what causes prostate cancer, there are certain risk factors linked to the disease. Black men and men with close family members who have had prostate cancer are more like to get prostate cancer.

The American Cancer Society recommends that all men age 50 and above have a yearly medical check-up that includes a rectal exam and PSA blood test. When the body’s PSA levels are elevated, it may indicate the presence of prostate cancer. Men in high-risk groups, such as black men and men with close family members, who have had prostate cancer, should begin testing at 45 years.

An ultrasound is another way to detect prostate cancer. If prostate cancer is suspected, the physician may perform a biopsy. This is the only way to definitively diagnose prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer and benign prostatic hypertrophy may produce similar symptoms, such as difficulty with urination. The only way to distinguish between this benign growth, BPH, and prostate cancer is to have an examination by a physician. However, in the early stages, prostate cancer may produce no symptoms at all. This is why regular examinations are recommended.

It is important that the physician determine the extent or stage of the prostate cancer so that the best treatment options can be taken. A bone scan helps to show whether the cancer has spread from the prostate gland to the bones.

The pathologic stage of the cancer is based on the pathology of the removed prostate tissue. This pathologic stage is more accurate in predicting the outlook for survival. At least 70% of all prostate cancers are found while they are still confined to the prostate. The 5-year survival rate for these men is 100%. Overall, 93% of men diagnosed with prostate cancer survive at least 5 years, and 72% survive at least 10 years.

The best treatment of prostate cancer depends on the patient’s age, overall health, the stage and grade of the cancer, and the patient’s feelings about the side effects of different treatments.

In a radical prostatectomy, the entire prostate gland is removed. This surgery is done only if it appears that the cancer has not spread outside the prostate. The main side effects of this surgery are urinary incontinence and impotence. It is sometimes possible for the surgeon to avoid removing the nerves that control erections.

da Vinci Prostatectomy: A Less Invasive Surgical Procedure. If your doctor recommends surgery to treat your prostate cancer, you may be a candidate for a new, less-invasive surgical procedure called da Vinci Prostatectomy. This procedure incorporates a state-of-the-art surgical system that helps your surgeon see vital anatomical structures more clearly and to perform a more precise surgical procedure.  For more information please visit our da Vinci Prostatectomy page.

Cryosurgery or targeted cryoablation of the prostate is a minimially invasive procedure, which uses freezing temperatures to destroy the prostate cancer. Cryosurgery is as effective as a radical prostatectomy, without the need for major surgery. This allows for a fast and easy recovery. Approximately 90 percent of patients remain prostate cancer-free up to seven years after cryosurgery.

Cryosurgery can be used for patients with different stages of prostate cancer, from localized cancer to advanced. It can be repeated, if cancer cells are detected after the initial treatment.

CyberKnife treatment using gamma radiation is the latest technology for the treatment of prostate cancer by radiation. No anesthesia is needed for CyberKnife treatment and the treatment can be completed in one week, instead of eight weeks when conventional radiation therapy is used.

Radiation therapy uses high energy x-rays to kill prostate cancer cells. External radiation or radiation from radioactive materials placed in the tumor, seed implants, may be used. Side effects of radiation therapy include fatigue, frequent and painful urination, impotence, urinary incontinence, upset stomach and diarrhea. Most of these side effects stop once treatment is stopped.

Hormonal therapy is usually used in men for whom surgery or radiation may not be good options or for men with advanced prostate cancer. The goal of this therapy is to decrease the testicles’ production of male hormone or testosterone, which fuels the prostate cancer.

Expectant therapy, also called watching and waiting, may be a good choice for older men. Because prostate cancer often spreads very slowly, many older men who have the disease may never need any treatment.

A diagnosis of prostate cancer can be frightening to a patient, his family and friends. Discussions between the physician and the patient are important in order to choose the most appropriate treatment. The physician can also put the patient in touch with other patients with prostate cancer, who would be willing to discuss their situation and experiences. In many cases, prostate cancer is curable, and it can be controlled, even in advanced stages.

RAFAEL A. ANTUN, M.D. - RETURN TO OUR HOME PAGE PARA ESPANOL