- If you are over 60 and have low-risk prostate cancer, your doctor may recommend not treating it.
- You can monitor low-risk prostate cancer with active surveillance and still enjoy a satisfying sex life.
- Talk to your doctor about the best way to manage your prostate cancer and any related symptoms.
Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancer diagnoses that affect men. It occurs when cancer cells in your prostate gland start to multiply out of control. While there are several available treatment options for prostate cancer, new research has found that for men over 60 with low-risk prostate cancer, active surveillance may be a better choice than other treatment options.
This article provides a brief overview of who is at most risk for prostate cancer before discussing why active surveillance may be a better course of action than treatment.
Prostate Cancer Risk Factors
Men can develop prostate cancer for a number of reasons:
Men who are older, African Americans, and men who have a family history of prostate cancer are at higher risk of prostate cancer. Other risk factors that might contribute to developing prostate cancer include:
- Exposure to harmful chemicals
- Having a sexually transmitted infection
If your doctor suspects prostate cancer is present, he might perform a digital rectal exam, request a biopsy, or order a blood test called a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test.
If any of these indicate prostate cancer, your doctor will discuss your options with you.
Treating Prostate Cancer
While no one wants to get a cancer diagnosis, it is possible to live a long, healthy life with prostate cancer. You can take several courses of action to address it, including:
These treatment options go from practically painless and non-invasive (active surveillance) to minimally invasive with side effects (radiation) up to quite invasive with side effects (surgery).
Your doctor will recommend the best course of treatment depending on your symptoms and how fast the cancer is growing.
Does Prostate Cancer Require Treatment?
The good news is, if your prostate cancer is considered low-risk, you might not need to treat it. Prostate cancer is low-risk if the cancer is only located in the prostate (meaning it hasn’t spread to other parts of your body) and is either growing very slowly or not growing at all.
A 2010 study found that men with low-risk prostate cancer might not need treatment. The study participants engaged in active surveillance, meaning they watched to see if symptoms developed or worsened, and if the cancer spread.
In July 2021, two new studies were presented at the 21st international meeting of the European Association of Urology that narrowed the results, finding that active surveillance was an especially promising choice for men over age 60 with low-risk cancer.
The researchers described the findings as a win-win for men in this category because few died from the cancer, and they were averaging at least ten years without having to treat it.
This is important because treating prostate cancer can have significant side effects, such as urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction (ED).
If you’re concerned about prostate cancer, talk to your doctor. If you are diagnosed, they can help you decide if you’re a good candidate for active surveillance or if you need to pursue treatment options.
If you need treatment like surgery or radiation therapy, talk to your provider about treatment side effects and how to address them.
If you’re post-treatment and struggling with erectile dysfunction after prostate surgery or ED related to prostate cancer treatment, erectile dysfunction medication may help you return to a satisfying sex life.
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