The Latest in Prostate Cancer Detection and Treatment
By Abhishek Bhat, MD
Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in American men. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately one in eight men will be diagnosed with the disease during their lifetime.
Luckily, we have diagnostic tests that can catch the disease early, robotic surgery for improved surgical results, and innovative technology to help us deliver precision treatment to kill cancer cells and limit side effects. All of these options are available at Jackson Health System.
It’s critical to catch the disease early in order to maximize treatment options and experience the best results. As we recognize Prostate Cancer Awareness Month in September, I want to encourage all men to learn about new treatment options and, more importantly, know when and how they should begin to test for the disease.
During the early stages of prostate cancer, men often do not present with symptoms that indicate something is wrong. In many cases, once a man starts experiencing symptoms, such as weight loss and/or fractures due to trivial trauma, the cancer has likely progressed. That’s why early testing, done through a simple blood test, is crucial.
The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test may signify possible prostate cancer if antigen levels are elevated. High levels do not mean you have cancer, but can alert your doctor to perform further testing. The earlier we find the disease, the more treatment options we can offer, and the better the chances of the cancer going into remission.
Most men are encouraged to begin receiving PSA tests annually between the ages of 55 and 70. It can be done through a regular blood test, and can be administered by a primary care doctor or urologist. If you have a family history of the disease, or have another risk factor, you may benefit from testing sooner. African American men are at an increased risk for developing prostate cancer over white men and other men of color. One in seven Black men will develop prostate cancer in his lifetime.
Another great tool we have in battling prostate cancer is MRI fusion-guided biopsies, which can be used to further detect cancer, inflammation, and other concerns. This imaging technology provides multiple views of the prostate with contrast, and shows in fine detail whether there are suspicious lesions.
If concerning spots are found, an MRI fusion-guided biopsy may be performed to help pinpoint what areas of the prostate should be further biopsied. Instead of getting random samples, this biopsy allows us to get the most accurate information, provide a more precise diagnosis, and present the best treatment plan.
We have an arsenal of treatment options to treat prostate cancer depending on what stage the disease is in at any given time.
At Jackson, we offer robotic prostatectomies using the latest da Vinci Xi surgical robot. This technology allows us to remove the entire prostate via minimally invasive surgery. The robot allows us to perform the procedure with more precision thanks to magnified views, while also accessing the organ via tiny incisions. Patients experience less blood loss and excellent oncological and functional outcomes, including early recovery of continence and sexual function.
Choosing an experienced surgeon with expertise in robotic surgery is critical as there are very fine nerves around the prostate that, if injured, can lead to erectile dysfunction and other issues.
If men do not require or are nervous about fully removing their prostate, other options are available. Radiation therapy, which targets and kills cancer cells in a specific spot in the body, is an option for cancer found early in isolated areas.
Another option is cryotherapy, which is an outpatient procedure that freezes cancer cells. It has high success rates in controlling cancer spread.
If the cancer has already spread to other areas of the body and we are not able to remove it entirely, we still have options to help manage the disease. They include cutting off the testosterone supply with injectable and/or hormonal agents.
However, the earlier the cancer is found, the more options we have to treat it, and the higher your chances are of having an outcome with minimal side effects. If you or a loved one are a man who is of age or fall into an at-risk group, make sure to get an annual PSA test. It can, and does, save lives.
Abhishek Bhat, MD, is an associate medical director with Jackson Health System, and specializes in urological oncology, cancer surgeries, and general urology at Jackson North Medical Center. For more information about urology services at Jackson Health System, visit https://medicalgroup.jacksonhealth.org.