Prostate Cancer

Prostate Cancer: Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions related to to prostate cancer.

Q: Is prostate enlargement the same as prostate cancer?

A: No. As a man ages, the prostate can increase in size many times without becoming cancerous. The medical term for noncancerous prostate enlargement is benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH. Prostate enlargement is not the same as prostate cancer, and BPH cannot “turn into” prostate cancer. However, BPH and prostate cancer can exist together. Even if cancer is not present, an enlarged prostate may cause other problems, such as interfering with a man’s ability to urinate.

For further information about prostate enlargement, go to Prostate Enlargement.

Q: Who needs radical prostate surgery?

A: Radical prostate surgery is usually performed on younger men, under the age of 70, when the cancer is in danger of metastasizing (spreading).

Q: Is “watchful waiting” dangerous?

A: Watchful waiting is likely to be a strategy in older men for whom radical surgery would be taxing and for whom radical surgery might not prolong life. It is often said that an older man is likely to die “with” prostate cancer rather than “from” prostate cancer.

Q: At what stage is prostate cancer “terminal”?

A: The chances of cure are smallest when the cancer cells have spread to other organs and to the bone. But even then, effective treatments are available.

Q: What is hospice care?

A: Hospice is a philosophy of end-of-life care that emphasizes dignity, quality of life, and pain relief.

Q: Should I worry about blood loss and safe transfusion during surgery?

A: Many patients are now “donating” their own blood before surgery. Any blood they lose during surgery can be replaced with their donated blood.

Q: Will hormone therapy cure prostate cancer?

A: Hormone therapy aims at slowing the growth of prostate cancer. For this reason, hormone therapy may be recommended for older men who might not be able to undergo radical surgery.

Q: Should I participate in a clinical trial?

A: Participation in a clinical trial generally guarantees good treatment and potentially the most advanced treatment available. However, clinical trials are designed so that one group receives an experimental treatment while another receives a standard treatment. Your outcome may vary depending on which group you are in. There are risks with experimental treatments, and standard treatment may not provide you with your optimal outcome. However, your participation helps medical science better understand and treat prostate cancer.

Q: What about “natural treatments,” with herbs, foods, and vitamins?

A: Alternative medicine is making its way into medical scientific circles, and there may benefits to herbal and vitamin treatments. While it is unlikely that they will cure cancer, they may help ease symptoms or side effects of treatment. If you decide to pursue alternative treatments, be certain to let your physician know. Some alternative treatments can interfere with or complicate conventional treatments.

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