Prostate cancer treatment

Your health care team will develop a treatment plan to fit your needs.

Prostate cancer treatment depends on the stage of the disease and the grade of the tumor (which indicates how abnormal the cells look and how likely they are to grow or spread).

Your prostate cancer treatment plan also takes into account your age and general health.

Prostate cancer and treatment

Treatment for prostate cancer may involve these aspects:

Active surveillance may be suggested if prostate cancer is found early and appears to be slow growing, or if you are elderly or have other serious medical problems.

Surgery is a common treatment for early-stage prostate cancer.

Radical prostatectomy is the removal of the prostate seminal vesicles and possibly lymph nodes. It can be done three different ways.

  • Radical retropubic prostatectomy is the traditional procedure in which a surgeon makes a six inch incision in the lower abdomen to remove the prostate.
  • During robotic-assisted laparoscopic prostatectomy surgeons use a robot to assist in the removal of the prostate. These patients have the five small 'keyhole' (laparoscopic ports) in the lower abdomen to remove the prostate. This is less invasive and the newest surgical technology.
  • Perineal prostatectomy is the removal of the prostate through the perineum - the area between the scrotum and rectum. This is a more rare procedure, but men with larger prostates may have them removed this way.

Prostate cryosurgery is the controlled freezing of the prostate to destroy prostate tissue.

Surgeons also do nerve-sparing procedures when appropriate.

Prostate cancer radiation treatment uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. It can be used instead of surgery or to destroy cancer cells that remain after surgery.

  • External beam radiation therapy for prostate cancer uses a beam of high-energy X-rays that damages cells in its path. It can be used with prostate seed implant therapy.
  • Prostate seed implant therapy – also called brachytherapy or internal radiation therapy – implants tiny radioactive seeds into the prostate to deliver high doses of radiation. The two types of seeds, palladium-103 and iodine-125, give up about 90 percent of their radioactivity within several months. By one year, the radioactivity can be considered gone.
Hormonal therapy is used to treat prostate cancer that has spread. It prevents cancer cells from getting the male hormones they need to grow. It is sometimes used after surgery or in addition to radiation treatment to maximize treatment.
Prostate cancer chemotherapy uses drugs to kill prostate cancer cells. It is given under the direction of a medical oncologist.

Prostate cancer survival rate

Prostate cancer has a high survival rate when it is detected and treated in its early stages.

Also, many studies are being done to discover new treatment methods. When research indicates that a new method has promise, patients may be eligible to be treated in clinical trials to determine the new treatment's effectiveness.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Prostate Cancer, can-ahc-14188 (3/02); Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Prostate Seed Implant Therapy, radonc-ahc-23435 (1/09); Virginia Piper Cancer Institute, 2008 Outcomes Report; National Cancer Institute, Prostate Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)
Reviewed By: Lisa Hiedeman, RN coordinator, Virginia Piper Cancer Institute Prostate Cancer Program and Heather Christie, RN coordinator, Virginia Piper Cancer Institute Prostate Cancer Program
First Published: 09/22/2009
Last Reviewed: 09/22/2009

Doctor Steve puts his hand on a patient's shoulder to reassure him as they talk about prostate cancer treatment

Dealing with cancer treatment side effects

Prostate cancer treatment can cause many side effects.


Cancer research

Participating in a clinical trial may help you take a more active role in your health care. You may also gain access to new drugs, treatments and disease management practices.


Cancer rehabilitation

Whether you are a cancer survivor or are undergoing cancer treatment, you may face symptoms that interfere with daily life. Our cancer rehabilitation team can help.