What's Next After You're Diagnosed With Prostate Cancer

by Brent Woods

Prostate cancer grows slowly, and you may have it for several years without experiencing any symptoms. Treatment of this cancer depends on how long you've had it and how advanced it is. Here are some of the typical treatment approaches your doctor may recommend once the extent of your cancer has been determined.

Active Surveillance

If the cancer screening caught the tumor at an early stage, where it is small and you have no symptoms, your doctor may suggest regular monitoring but no other treatment. Most of the prostate cancer treatments have irritating side effects that you want to avoid for as long as possible. If your doctor thinks the tumor is not an immediate threat, they may have you come in for regular examinations to track the progress of the disease. Only when the tumor begins to develop symptoms will they suggest a more aggressive treatment.

Surgical Removal

If the tumor is large enough to cause you to have symptoms, such as difficulty urinating, they will suggest removing it and part of your prostate gland. The procedure can be done through a small abdominal incision or by laparoscopy. Some of the tissue around the tumor is removed in case cancer cells have begun to spread. Some of the side effects you may experience with this procedure include:

  • incontinence (urine leaks)
  • erectile issues

Radiation Therapy

If the tumor shows signs of spreading, your doctor may be concerned that surgery won't get all of the cancer cells. They may recommend radiation therapy after the surgery to make sure all of the cells were eliminated. Two types of radiation therapy may be done to treat your prostate cancer:

External - This uses a beam of radiation focused on the area containing the cancer cells. The area will be carefully mapped out and marked on you so the exposure happens in the same area each time. You'll need several weeks of treatment to be sure all of the cancer cells have been killed.

Internal - Radioactive pellets are inserted directly into the prostate gland with this treatment. The radiation kills any actively reproducing cancer cells in the tissue. The pellets are left in your prostate for several weeks.

Both of these treatment types have the following potential side effects:

  • diarrhea
  • blood in your stool
  • burning when you urinate
  • erectile issues and impotency


When the prostate cancer has become advanced and has begun to spread to other areas of your body, chemotherapy is the treatment used to find those cells and eliminate them. Given orally or through injections, the chemicals look for actively reproducing cells, a sign of cancer activity. The chemicals then disrupt the growth and further reproduction of those cells. You may need daily treatments over a several weeks to make sure all of the cancer cells have been killed.

Some of the typical side effects of this prostate cancer treatment include:

  • loss of hair
  • appetite and weight loss
  • sores in the mouth and on the lips
  • nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • fatigue

Most of the side effects of both radiation therapy and chemotherapy will go away after the treatment has stopped. For more information, contact Unity Urology PC or a similar organization.