Treating Prostate Cancer
Once your prostate cancer has been diagnosed and staged, you have a lot to think about before you and your doctor choose a treatment plan. It’s important that you think carefully about each of your choices. You will want to weigh the benefits of each treatment option against the possible risks and side effects.
Which treatments are used for prostate cancer?
Depending on each case, treatment options for men with prostate cancer might include:
- Watchful waiting or active surveillance
- Radiation therapy
- Cryotherapy (cryosurgery)
- Hormone therapy
- Vaccine treatment
- Bone-directed treatment
These treatments are generally used one at a time, although in some cases they may be combined.
To learn about the most common approaches to treating prostate cancer, see these topics:
- Things to think about when considering treatment options
- Typical treatment options based on the stage of the cancer
- Following PSA levels during and after treatment
- Dealing with prostate cancer that doesn't go away or recurs (comes back) after treatment
Which doctors treat prostate cancer?
The main types of doctors who treat prostate cancer include:
- Urologists: surgeons who treat diseases of the urinary system and male reproductive system (including the prostate)
- Radiation oncologists: doctors who treat cancer with radiation therapy
- Medical oncologists: doctors who treat cancer with medicines such as chemotherapy or hormone therapy
Many other specialists might be part of your treatment team as well, including physician assistants (PAs), nurse practitioners (NPs), nurses, nutrition specialists, social workers, and other health care providers. See Health Professionals Associated With Cancer Care for more on this.
Making treatment decisions
It’s important to discuss all of your treatment options, including their goals and possible side effects, with your doctors to help make the decision that best fits your needs. Some important things to consider include:
- The stage and grade of your cancer
- Your age and expected life span
- Any other serious health conditions you have
- Your feelings (and your doctor’s opinion) about the need to treat the cancer right away
- The likelihood that treatment will cure your cancer (or help in some other way)
- Your feelings about the possible side effects from each treatment
You may feel that you must make a decision quickly, but it’s important to give yourself time to absorb the information you have just learned. It’s also very important to ask questions if there is anything you’re not sure about. For a list of some questions to ask, see What should you ask your health care team about prostate cancer?
Getting a second opinion
You may also want to get a second opinion. This can give you more information and help you feel more certain about the treatment plan you choose. Many men find it helpful to get a second opinion about the best treatment options based on their situation, especially if they have several choices.
Prostate cancer is a complex disease, and doctors can differ in their opinions regarding the best treatment options. Speaking with doctors who specialize in different kinds of treatment may help you sort through your options. If you aren’t sure where to go for a second opinion, ask your doctor for help.
Thinking about taking part in a clinical trial
Clinical trials are carefully controlled research studies that are done to get a closer look at promising new treatments or procedures. Clinical trials are one way to get state-of-the art cancer treatment. Sometimes they may be the only way to get access to newer treatments. They are also the best way for doctors to learn better methods to treat cancer. Still, they are not right for everyone.
If you would like to learn more about clinical trials that might be right for you, start by asking your doctor if your clinic or hospital conducts clinical trials. You can also call our clinical trials matching service at 1-800-303-5691 for a list of studies that meet your medical needs, or see Clinical Trials to learn more.
Considering complementary and alternative methods
You may hear about alternative or complementary treatment methods that your doctor hasn’t mentioned. These methods can include vitamins, herbs, special diets, or other methods such as acupuncture or massage, to name a few.
Complementary methods refer to treatments that are used along with your regular medical care. Alternative treatments are used instead of a doctor’s medical treatment. Although some of these methods might be helpful in relieving symptoms or helping you feel better, many have not been proven to work. Some might even be dangerous.
Be sure to talk to your cancer care team about any method you are thinking about using. They can help you learn what is known (or not known) about the method, which can help you make an informed decision.
Choosing to stop treatment or choosing no treatment at all
For some men, when treatments have been tried and are no longer controlling the cancer, it is often helpful to weigh the benefits and risks of continuing to try new treatments. Whether or not you continue treatment, there are still things you can do to help maintain or improve your quality of life. Learn more in If Cancer Treatments Stop Working.
Some men, especially if the cancer is advanced, might not want to be treated at all. There are many reasons you might decide not to get cancer treatment, but it’s important to talk this through with your doctors before you make this decision. Remember that even if you choose not to treat the cancer, you can still get supportive care to help with pain or other symptoms.
Help getting through treatment
Your cancer care team will be your first source of information and support, but there are other resources for help when you need it. Hospital- or clinic-based support services are an important part of your care. These might include nursing or social work services, financial aid, nutritional advice, rehab services, or spiritual help.
The American Cancer Society also has programs and services – including rides to treatment, lodging, support groups, and more – to help you get through treatment. Call our National Cancer Information Center at 1-800-227-2345 and speak with one of our trained specialists on call 24 hours a day, every day.
The treatment information here is not official policy of the American Cancer Society and is not intended as medical advice to replace the expertise and judgment of your cancer care team. It is intended to help you and your family make informed decisions, together with your doctor. Your doctor may have reasons for suggesting a treatment plan different from these general treatment options. Don't hesitate to ask him or her questions about your treatment options.