Prostate Cancer Facts
Prostate cancer is the second most diagnosed cancer in men in the US, and 27,000 men are expected to die from the disease in 2016 alone. This form of cancer develops in the prostate, a small walnut-sized gland in the male reproductive system that’s vital in nourishing and protecting sperm. Currently, the top three treatments for prostate cancer are active surveillance (monitoring tumors to see how they develop over time), surgery and radiation treatment. Hormone therapy has also become one of the most common options. The good news is that new therapies and improvements to existing treatments are being researched and tested. Read on to learn more about prostate cancer symptoms and treatment options in 2016.
For men getting radiation treatment for their prostate cancer, a new treatment approved by the FDA can help protect their rectum, bladder, and intestines. Called the SpaceOAR system, it’s a liquid that is injected by needle between the prostate and the rectum. During radiation treatments, the liquid turns into a gel. Then, after treatments, the gel turns back into liquid and leaves the body during urination. With the gel filling that space, doctors can more aggressively use radiation to shrink cancerous growths with less risk of damaging tissues around the prostate. This could make a real difference for men with prostate cancer, because years down the road they’ll be less likely to be diagnosed with other cancerous tumors as a side effect of radiation treatment.
Another prostate cancer drug called abiraterone or Zytiga is becoming available in New Zealand after already being funded in the UK, Canada, and Australia. Zytiga has been shown to extend and improve the quality of life for men with advanced prostate cancer. There are not many treatments available for patients whose diseases have progressed this far, so having a new drug available is good news. Zytiga works by interrupting the process that creates androgen at important steps in the spread of prostate cancer, in the adrenal gland and even in a specific tumor. Zytiga can be taken before chemotherapy or as an alternative to chemotherapy. This could be a relief for prostate cancer patients who live far from centers where IV drugs are administered. Treatment options for this advanced stage of prostate cancer used to be more limited, but more opportunities for treatment are providing men with greater hope.
Studies released recently show that treating prostate cancer in older men in their 70s and 80s with hormone treatment in addition to radiation therapy can help them live longer. Oftentimes, men over 65 with prostate cancer are treated with hormones alone. Hormone therapy for prostate cancer works by preventing the body from making androgens or by blocking their effects, causing the hormone levels drop, which slows the growth of cancer cells. Studies have already shown that younger men survive longer with both kinds of treatment, but this is the first time researchers are looking at men over 65. They’re finding a real benefit for these older men. Like any prostate cancer patient, men over 65 still have to weigh the side effects from aggressive treatment, but many are in good enough overall health to endure the rigors of treatment. That said, it’s normal for doctors to recommend nothing more than careful monitoring for elderly patients whose prostate tumors are growing very slowly.