September 19, 2018

Prostate Cancer Treatment Options: Prostate Surgery vs Radiation

Prostate cancer occurs in the small, walnut-shaped gland that produces semen. It is one of the most common types of cancer in men. Some types of prostate cancer grow slowly and tend to stay within the prostate. In that scenario, and depending on a man’s age, they may require minimal treatment or no treatment at all.

Other types of prostate cancer are aggressive and can spread to other areas of the body. With those forms, treatment is necessary. Two of the most common treatments are prostate surgery and radiation therapy.

Prostate Cancer Surgery

Surgery to remove the entire prostate and some of the surrounding tissue is called a radical prostatectomy. Typically the seminal vesicles and nearby lymph nodes are removed as well. If cancer has not spread beyond the prostate, this procedure can cure it.

Serious complications from a radical prostatectomy such as death or disability are rare. However, because important nerves pass through the prostate on the way to the penis, issues can occur. They include:

  • Urinary incontinence. The older a man is, the higher the risk of incontinence. Men over age 70 have approximately a 15% chance of developing incontinence following the operation.
  • Erectile dysfunction (ED). Difficulty achieving an erection is common after surgery, and more common the older a man is. However, there are a number of treatments such as medication or an external pump that can enable a man to have sex after prostatectomy.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to target and kill cancer cells. This radiation can be delivered in two ways:

  • External beam radiation. This method uses X-rays or protons directed at the prostate from outside the body. It typically involves sessions five days a week for several weeks.
  • Brachytherapy. This method involves the placement of multiple rice-sized radioactive seeds in the prostate tissue. These seeds emit a lower dose of radiation over a long period of time. Eventually, the seeds stop emitting radiation and they are left in place permanently.

Radiation therapy side effects may include erectile dysfunction, the need to urinate frequently or urgently, loose stools or pain when passing stools.

Prostate cancer is a serious medical condition, but one for which there are many treatments. Your doctor will perform various tests to check for prostate cancer with increasing frequency the older you get to ensure that if cancer is present, it is detected early when treatment is the most successful.

Baptist Health is known for advanced, superior care for patients with cancer and the diagnosis, treatment, and management of prostate cancer. You will appreciate timely appointments and a professional, friendly atmosphere where we take time to listen to your concerns. At Baptist Health, you have access to the region’s most comprehensive, multidisciplinary team of specialists and innovative therapies, including many available only through specialized clinical trials. In every way, we work to demonstrate the utmost in excellent care to those who trust us with their health.

Learn More.