How Will Your Prostate Cancer Be Diagnosed?
Early detection of prostate cancer gives you a much better chance of full recovery. In fact, when the slow-moving type of cancer is localized in the prostate, almost 100% of men will live at least five years. Prostate cancer screening is the key to catching the cancer before it spreads. However, there are pros and cons of prostate screening that you should talk about with your primary care physician before you decide. The American Cancer Society urges that all men over 50 years old have prostate screening. The typical screening includes:
- Blood Test. Your doctor’s office technician may draw blood during your regular checkup and test for the protein PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen). An elevated PSA could mean you have the chance of prostate cancer. However, there are other diseases that can cause a higher than normal PSA.
- Physical Exam. Your doctor may also perform a DRE (digital rectal exam) to check for any abnormalities in the gland. It is still possible to have prostate cancer, even if this exam comes back positive.
If your doctor thinks you might have prostate cancer, based on the initial screenings, he or she may order additional tests to confirm the diagnosis. Those tests may include:
- Biopsy. The doctor will remove a small tissue sample from the prostate gland and send the cells to a pathologist for examination to determine if they are cancerous.
- Transrectal ultrasound (TRUS). If you have an elevated PSA, your doctor can order this test which allows the doctor to view the prostate through a small probe. A computer translates sound waves into black and white images so that any cancer present can be verified and measured. The 10-minute test is usually performed in a doctor’s office or outpatient clinic.
After these tests, if your doctor believes you have prostate cancer, he or she may order imaging tests to determine the shape and size of the tumor and the extent to which it may or may not have spread to other parts of the body. Imaging tests that may be ordered include:
- PET Bone Scan – If prostate cancer is spread, one of the most likely places to find it is in your bones. This type of scan goes beyond the 3D images provided by a CT scan to show what is happening in your tissue at a cellular level. For this test, you are injected with a small amount of low-level radioactive material, which settles in damaged areas of bone throughout the body. A special camera detects the radioactivity and creates a picture of your skeleton. Using this scan, your Palmer radiation oncologists will develop the best and most focused treatment from the array of advanced technologies at their fingertips for each individual situation.
- CT Scan – The CT scan will combine many X-ray pictures to make a detailed cross-sectional image of your prostate. A CT scan is more likely to show tumors than a routine X-ray and it can also show more details such as the shape, size, and position of the tumor. CT scans can also show any enlarged lymph nodes that might contain cancer. Your Palmer radiation oncologists at Mat-Su Valley Cancer Center use the CT scans to monitor growth, size, shape, movement, and location of the tumor and surrounding tissues of cancer in patients.
- MRI Scan – Like CT scans, an MRI can show precise images of the tissue in your prostate. The difference is an MRI uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to make the pictures, giving doctors different information about what can be seen. Your prostate MRI, completed at an outside imaging center, is very commonly fused with CT simulation images, completed at Mat-Su Valley Cancer Center, to help plan your radiation treatment.
Types Of Radiation Therapy For Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is 99% treatable when caught early before the cancer spreads to other parts of the body. Your oncologist may choose one or more of the following treatments, based on your stage and type of cancer.
- Postpone treatment of prostate cancer, but monitor its development.
Surgery to remove tumor
- Radiation therapy
Mat-Su Valley Comprehensive Cancer Center is the premier cancer treatment center for many types of radiation therapy, offering a variety of options.
The radiation oncologists at Mat-Su Valley Cancer Center are uniquely qualified to treat your individual case due to their experience in treating prostate cancer using the most advanced methods. We offer clinically proven, non-surgical treatment options from one convenient center, including conventional IMRT, IGRT, HDR brachytherapy, hyperthermia and more. That means our Palmer oncologists, who are experienced with all of these treatment types, will offer the best treatment option(s) given your unique situation.
When it comes to treating your prostate cancer with radiation therapy, Mat-Su Valley Comprehensive Cancer Center is your expert choice. The descriptions for your prostate cancer treatment options include:
- Traditional External Beam Radiation Therapies
- Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) for Prostate Cancer – Mat-Su Valley Comprehensive Cancer Center houses the most advanced equipment including image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT) which can track and capture your tumor using high-resolution, three-dimensional images. IGRT is one of the best advancements developed for the gantry designed linear accelerators. Due to gas, and the filling of the bladder and bowels, the prostate can move slightly during treatment. IGRT allows our Palmer oncologists to view and compensate for any prostate movement during treatment, ensuring enhanced accuracy. IGRT provides a tool for our doctors to treat tumors that move with extreme precision.
- Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) for Prostate Cancer- At our center, we determine the best method of treatment given each unique situation. Our prostate cancer experts in Palmer have compared IMRT to standard or conventional radiation therapy. Due to the increased accuracy of IMRT our doctors can deliver a higher dose of radiation and spare the surrounding tissues of the bowel, bladder, and sensitive nerve bundles. IMRT can also be used if a patient has a returning cancer. Even with prior radiation, IMRT may be a promising option.
- RapidArc Radiotherapy Technology for Prostate Cancer – With RapidArc Prostate Cancer Treatment, we have combined and enhanced both the IGRT and IMRT, to make this treatment much more precise, giving higher more effective doses, in a shortened treatment time. Patients will still undergo numerous treatments, but each treatment may be shortened from 20 to 30 minutes each to just three to five minutes. Unlike traditional IMRT that requires multiple rotations around the patient or makes repeated stops and starts to treat the tumor from different angles, this volumetric arc therapy delivers precise 3-D doses with a single 360° rotation of the machine. It uses your treatment planning algorithm to simultaneously change the rotation speed, the shape of the treatment aperture, and the delivery dose rate. The shape and position of the tumor are determined from computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and positron emission tomography (PET) diagnostic studies. This permits improved dose sculpturing over 3-D conformal radiation therapy.
- 3-D Conformal Radiation Therapy (3-D CRT) for Prostate Cancer – This type of radiotherapy uses 3D images to plan treatment and to deliver a dose of radiation that projects at the best angles for your tumor, avoiding surrounding healthy structures. Usually, CT and/or MRI images are used for mapping out the radiation plan. Higher doses of radiation can be sent to cancer cells while much lower doses are received by the healthy tissue. This technology has allowed great improvements in safely treating head and neck tumors to minimize exposure to the spine, eyes, and other important structures.
- Internal Radiation Therapies
- High Dose Rate Brachytherapy (HDR) – This extremely precise radiation therapy destroys prostate cancer. It uses an intense source of radiation delivered through temporarily-placed applicators implanted into the tumor site. It is delivered internally via a computer-controlled machine in typically two to ten convenient treatments. It is pain-free and minimizes the risk of common side effects. The radiation is delivered into the applicators through a wire or cable inserted into a catheter and then removed between treatments. Palmer’s radiation oncologists can vary the position of the wire and the length the radiation is administered to satisfy the shape and need of the cancer. In Interstitial HDR Brachytherapy, often used for prostate cancer, the radiation is delivered directly into tissue.
- Low Dose Rate Brachytherapy (LDR) – This radiation therapy is similar to its HDR counterpart, except it differs in its treatment delivery and length of treatment. With LDR Brachytherapy, 50 to 100 radioactive ‘seeds’ are implanted permanently into the cancerous tissue and radiation is then delivered to the infected area slowly over the following month or so as the cancerous cells die. Once the seeds emit the radiation, they, too, fade away. To effectively and safely place the seeds, Mat-Su Valley Cancer Center’s radiation oncologists use a special planning system which uses transrectal ultrasound (TRUS) images to help design and monitor the intended placement of seeds. This one-time treatment may be used to treat a variety of cancers, including cervical, esophageal, head and neck and lung, but it is most often used to treat prostate cancer.
- Hyperthermia (Thermal therapy or Thermotherapy) – This type of therapy is always used in conjunction with another type, usually radiation or chemotherapy. It focuses on killing cancerous cells by exposing them to extremely high temperatures. Research has proven that this can kill the cancer, even sometimes cells that radiation isn’t reaching, without harming healthy tissues. Hyperthermia may also make some cancer cells more susceptible to destruction from radiation. When hyperthermia and radiation are prescribed together, they are usually given within an hour of each other. Hyperthermia can also enhance the effects of certain anticancer drugs. Ask our Mat-Su Valley Cancer Center radiation experts about the different types of hyperthermia currently available for your treatment.
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