Understanding The Most Effective Prostate Cancer Treatments

2011-11-04 | |
Last updated: 2011-11-04

What Are The Risks Of Different Prostate Cancer Treatments?

Any form of medical treatment has risks so the key is to select the treatment that has the greatest effectiveness with the lowest risk. Between radiation treatment and prostate surgery, called a prostatectomy, radiation is the least directly invasive treatment. However, determining which treatment is better is not simple because each has its benefits and problems.

Research published in 2004 by the US National Cancer Institute compared the two treatment options. What they found was that those who had radiation treatment were more likely to suffer bowel problems and were 25% more likely to have erectile problems 5 years following surgery as compared to those who had had a prostatectomy. In contrast, however, patients who had a prostatectomy were 3.5 to 4 times more likely to suffer from problems with bladder control after 5 years. The conflicting results make choosing the best treatment option difficult and dependent on personal circumstances.

That said, subsequent research from the University of California San Francisco, published last year, points to one treatment currently being better than the other for most people. The researchers found that patients who had a prostatectomy had a 50% lower risk of dying from the cancer in comparison to those who had had radiation treatments. For most people, side effects are not nearly as important as the survival risk so prostate surgery is likely the best option.

Of course, choosing surgery is not a trivial decision. The removal of all or part of a cancerous prostate gland is a relatively serious undertaking because of how it can effect both a man’s sexual health and their ability to maintain bladder control. The success of the surgery depends on the ability of the surgeon to spare the nerves and muscles around the prostate and bladder. In particular, any damage to the sphincter muscle at the bottom of the bladder can limit the ability to control the flow of urine. That said, preserving many nerves and muscles in the area is important.

Either a poorly performed surgery or complications because of the tumor can result in men having problems getting an erection or being able to control their urine flow. However, success rates among qualified surgeons are relatively high. In a study performed in 2000 by Johns Hopkins University, researchers found that 93% of patients had bladder control within 18 months of such surgery. The same study also found that 86% of patients who had had a prostatectomy were able to be sexually active.

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Category: Disease Information, Medical Treatment

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