Treatment options for prostate cancer depend on multiple factors, including the cancer’s stage. Treatment may involve surgery, radiation, hormone therapy, or chemotherapy.

According to the National Cancer Institute, the factors that affect treatment decisions include the stage and risk level of prostate cancer, the person’s age and overall health, and their personal preferences.

Effective treatment is often possible for prostate cancer, especially if a person receives a diagnosis in the early stages of the disease.

This article explains the different treatment options for prostate cancer, the outcomes, and more.

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Compared with other types of cancer, prostate cancer has one of the highest survival rates. Doctors can cure it if they find it early, when it has not spread to distant parts of the body

In most cases, the goal of treatment for prostate cancer is to cure the disease and keep it from reoccurring.

For some individuals with advanced prostate cancer, the goal of treatment is to alleviate the symptoms and improve the person’s quality of life.

A doctor will consider a person’s cancer cured if the person has shown no signs of cancer for at least 5 years.

Doctors may choose from the following eight standard treatment options.

During active surveillance, or watchful waiting, a person attends regular health checks to monitor for further changes.

Also, a healthcare professional periodically checks the person’s prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels.

A doctor may also want to order imaging scans and prostate biopsies every 1 to 3 years.

During this time, if the person’s test results change, the doctor may recommend starting treatment.

Treatment outcome

Active surveillance is an effective treatment if a person has a slow-growing, low risk cancer that has not spread beyond the prostate.

This treatment option may allow a person to maintain their quality of life longer. Usually, a person will not need aggressive treatment as long as the disease does not progress.

Surgery may be another treatment option if the cancer is only in a person’s prostate.

This common type of surgery is called a radical prostatectomy.

During the procedure, a surgeon removes the person’s prostate, surrounding tissue, and seminal vesicles.

Treatment outcome

Surgery is often an effective treatment if the cancer has not spread beyond the prostate. It aims to remove the cancer by removing the prostate.

According to the Urology Care Foundation, the goal of surgery is to get a PSA value of less than 0.1 nanograms per milliliter for 10 years.

Learn more about prostate cancer surgery.

Radiation therapy uses high energy X-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing.

Two of the main methods of administering radiation therapy involve directing an external beam of radiation at the affected area and giving a person radioactive medications.

Treatment outcome

It is possible for radiation therapy — either by itself or in combination with other treatments — to cure early prostate cancer.

This treatment is most effective for early stage prostate cancer.

A person who receives radiation treatment may experience erectile dysfunction or urinary problems.

Learn more about radiation for prostate cancer.

In prostate cancer, testosterone can encourage cancer growth.

Hormone therapy works by blocking these hormones to stop or slow the growth.

Treatment outcome

Hormone therapy can be an effective treatment for prostate cancer, as it slows the growth of cancer cells or causes them to die.

However, most prostate cancers eventually stop responding to hormone therapy. After this, a person will need other treatments.

What happens when hormone treatment for prostate cancer stops working? Find out here.

Doctors prescribe chemotherapy drugs either to kill cancer cells or to stop them from dividing. Doctors will administer these medications through an IV drip.

The drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body.

Treatment outcome

Chemotherapy effectively shrinks prostate tumors and can be beneficial for advanced prostate cancer when healthcare professionals use it in conjunction with hormone therapy.

However, because this treatment targets healthy cells in addition to cancer cells, people may experience severe side effects such as hair loss, fatigue, and loss of appetite.

Immunotherapy is a vaccine treatment that can stimulate the immune system to attack cancer cells.

It can treat prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.

Treatment outcome

Immunotherapy can effectively slow prostate cancer growth. However, clinical trials have not yet indicated clear, successful results.

This treatment uses a type of cancer drug that blocks the actions of certain enzymes that help cancer cells repair and grow.

These drugs are a type of targeted therapy, as they attack cancer cells and mostly avoid affecting healthy cells.

Treatment outcome

Doctors typically use these medications for stage 4 metastatic prostate cancer. While these drugs may not cure prostate cancer, they may help a person live longer.

Bisphosphonates are medications that reduce the weakening or destruction of the bone that can occur when cancer spreads to the bones.

This is a supportive therapy — it does not treat the cancer directly, but it prevents bone fractures due to bone metastasis.

Doctors may recommend bisphosphonate therapy when a person’s advanced prostate cancer is no longer responding to hormone therapy alone.

Treatment outcome

Bisphosphonates cannot cure prostate cancer, but they may help prevent bone loss and fractures.

Because many treatment options are available for prostate cancer, it may feel overwhelming for a person to choose a treatment method.

Talking often with their healthcare team can help a person make informed decisions about their treatment and contribute to successful treatment or management of their cancer.

Useful questions to ask a healthcare team include:

  • Has my cancer spread beyond the prostate, and if so, is it possible to cure?
  • What are the time considerations and costs for each treatment?
  • Should I join a clinical trial?
  • Should I seek a second opinion before making a final decision about my treatment?

A prostate cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming, and the cost of treatment can also cause stress.

In 2020, people spent about $22.3 billion combined on prostate cancer treatment in the United States.

Even with insurance, out-of-pocket costs can be excessive, but some organizations can help people with prostate cancer manage their medical costs:

  • The American Cancer Society offers a list of resources for financial help.
  • The Prostate Cancer Foundation has a list of organizations that can help with the costs of copays, treatments, and medications.
  • Drug manufacturers may offer patient assistance programs to reduce the cost of prescriptions.

Prostate cancer is curable if it has not spread to distant body parts. Prostate cancers that have spread to distant organs are also curable with the appropriate treatment.

A person’s healthcare team can help them understand which treatment options can give them the best chance of survival or help them manage symptoms.