Prostate cancer treatment advances in Northwest Indiana - September 11, 2017

Courtesy of NWI Times

Written by Carrie Rodovich

In the last 10 or 15 years, treatment for prostate cancer has changed dramatically, going from traditional surgery to robotic surgery to no treatment at all.

Prostate cancer is uncommon in men younger than 50, but it becomes more prevalent as men age, said Dr. Robert Woodburn, radiation oncologist at Methodist Hospitals Oncology Institute.

Though there are no symptoms specifically associated with early-stage prostate cancer, some indicators can include difficulty urinating and bleeding and pain when urinating, he said.

“Some of these symptoms can also be associated with benign enlargement of the prostate and benign prostatic hypertrophy,” he said. “That’s why it’s important to be screened with a PSA blood test and a medical exam.”

He recommends men have a conversation with their primary care doctor about when to first be screened for prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancers, with almost 181,000 men diagnosed with it in 2016 alone, said Dr. Tareq Braik, a medical oncologist in Valparaiso with Porter Health Care System. For reasons unknown to doctors, African-American men are at a higher risk than Caucasian men.

There is no way to prevent prostate cancer; the best way to treat it is to catch it early, before symptoms start.

“The screening process may help you catch it when it’s very small, before it causes problems or spreads and goes to the bone,” Braik said. “Typically, you should start at age 50 if you have no family history and don’t have any risk factors for the disease.”

If you have a positive diagnosis, there are several options for treatment. Older patients diagnosed with early-stage cancer may opt for a “wait-and-see” approach.

“There’s no one treatment option that fits all,” Braik said. “Some prostate cancer patients have a cancer that is growing so slowly that they might practice active surveillance. This might be someone who is diagnosed at an advanced age.”

Other treatment options might include hormone therapy, immunotherapy, radiation and chemotherapy.

For those patients whose doctors recommend surgery, that procedure also has changed.

Open surgery was a customary treatment option for prostate cancer until 2005, said Dr. Hassan Alsheik, a urologist on staff at Community Hospital in Munster and St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago.

“For 100 years, the treatment for prostate cancer didn’t change at all,” he said. “Now, we use robotic-assisted (surgery) to go into the body through a small port with a small camera and use robotic arms to conduct the procedure.”

There are many advantages to this type of surgery, including a shorter hospitalization, quicker recovery process and less trauma to the body, including less blood loss and the preservation of body functions.

Braik acknowledged that a diagnosis of prostate cancer was more serious decades ago than it is today.

“Cancer patients are living longer, and prostate cancer is becoming a chronic disease thanks to new treatment options,” he said. “It does not have to be something that is going to kill you.”