The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that is part of the male reproductive system. It is located directly below the bladder. Its function is to produce some of the fluid in semen. As men become older, the prostate may enlarge. Some men develop prostate cancer. Most prostate cancers (about 75%) are slow growing and may not even require treatment. The rest are more aggressive. They grow quickly and spread to other body parts. Metastatic prostate cancer occurs when the cancer enters the lymph nodes or blood stream and travels to other parts of the body, usually the bones. Metastatic prostate cancer cannot be cured, but with current treatments, it can usually be well controlled.
Hormone Treatments for Metastatic Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer requires the male sex hormone testosterone in order to grow and spread. You should find a way to manipulate that specific hormone. There are several ways to manipulate levels of testosterone in the body. Perhaps the most radical treatment for metastatic prostate cancer is the orchiectomy, which involves the removal of one or both testicles. The testicles produce testosterone. When they are removed, the cancer’s supply of testosterone is abruptly stopped.
Another way to reduce the supply of testosterone to metastatic prostate cancer is to use a pituitary suppressor. The pituitary is a small gland in the brain. Among its many other functions, it signals the testicles to produce testosterone. A pituitary suppressor will interfere with these signals, and the production of testosterone will cease. Still another hormone treatment involves injections of female hormones like estrogen.
While hormone therapy does an excellent job of controlling the growth of metastatic prostate cancer, the side effects, which may include erectile dysfunction, decreased interest in sex, the growth of breast tissue, and hot flashes, are deal-breakers for some male patients.
The most effective treatment for metastatic prostate cancer is unquestionably hormone therapy. Most types of chemotherapy (anti-cancer drugs) have not proven themselves to be particularly useful against prostate cancer. Radiation therapy may be used to shrink tumors in the bones that are causing pain. This is considered a palliative (comfort-oriented) treatment rather than a curative treatment.
Finally, the cancerous prostate may grow large enough to press against the urinary tract, resulting in problems with urination. Surgery may remove these blockages, but again, this procedure is focused on comfort far more than cure.
Since metastatic prostate cancer requires difficult treatment and can be both painful and life-limiting, it’s important to diagnose prostate cancer before it has a chance to spread. Current tests can diagnose “silent” prostate cancers, those that have not even begun to cause symptoms. Regular screenings for prostate cancer should be a part of every man’s health regimen.