Prostate Cancer: Your Treatment Options
What you should know: Fatigue, rectal burning and tenderness, and a frequent urge to urinate are common side effects, and they can last several months. The risk of incontinence is less with EBRT than with surgery, but the risk of erection problems is roughly the same. “I opted for a newer radiation treatment that uses gamma rays and requires only five 45-minute treatments,” says Warren Forman, 69, a New York attorney. “The toughest part was trying to stay awake during treatments so I could keep my body still—and the only side effect was the feeling that I had to go to the bathroom a lot during the first month.”
The basics: Chemotherapy drugs target and destroy cancer cells. Although they are usually injected into a vein, some can be taken in pill form. Once these drugs enter the bloodstream, they spread throughout the body and can destroy prostate cancer cells wherever they find them.
Oncologists—MDs who specialize in cancer care—give chemo in cycles, with each period of treatment followed by a period of rest so your body has time to recover. Each treatment-and-rest cycle typically lasts several weeks.
It might be right for you if: Your cancer has spread and hormone therapy has stopped working.
What you should know: Chemo can cause side effects, such as low white blood cell count (called neutropenia, which can lead to infection), anemia, low platelets, nausea and fatigue. Fortunately, many can be prevented or treated and most subside after treatment ends.