When aggressive treatment isn't necessary

How you treat prostate cancer should depend on two factors: your age and the stage of the disease. If you are over 70, and found to have prostate cancer, the majority medical opinion is that your treatment should be "wait and see" (often referred to as "watchful waiting"), unless your cancer is very advanced.

There are three stages of prostate cancer: In the overwhelming majority of cases prostate cancer is localized, where low-grade, cancerous cells reside within the prostate gland and the patient may not even know he's got cancer until it's detected during, say, a routine, investigation for some other problem, or possibly picked up by screening. In the majority of cases, this will probably never grow to give you any problems during the rest of your life. Treatment is mainly wait-and-see and shouldn't affect your quality of life. Ironically, this is the only stage where surgery can be successful at a point where it may not be necessary. If you have a much longer expected life span than 10 years, the "watchful waiting " approach is supposedly associated with a higher probability of living with cancer that spreads or dying from prostate cancer (New Eng J Med, January 27, 1994). In the locally advanced type, medium-grade cancer cells spread outside the prostate gland. In this instance, surgery usually won't help, so radiotherapy and hormone treatment is usually prescribed. Reducing hormone levels with drugs or surgery can help to control the cancer for several years. With advanced prostate cancer, high-grade cancer cells have spread out from the prostate into the adjoining tissue and bone. Although by this stage, prostate cancer can't really be treated effectively with drugs, hormone therapy can slow down the disease for a couple of years, after which chemotherapy can help for while, according to conventional medicine. Radiotherapy is used to relieve the pain caused by the cancer spreading to the bones.One of the most important ways of detecting prostate cancer is to know thyself. By the time you reach 50 you may well be showing some clinical signs of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BHP), where the prostate's cells increase in size and number. In this condition the prostate grows from the size of a walnut to about the size of a lemon. This expansion of the prostate then constricts the urethra through which urine flows out of the bladder.

If, for example, you're having to get up several times in the night to pass urine, you feel discomfort or pain, you may wish to get medical help, particularly If the prostate feels unusually firm or uneven, of if symptoms are very severe and inconvenient. An early visit can often mean a non-surgical treatment of the prostate if it is enlarged.