Treatment for prostate cancer

Main treatments

The treatment of prostate cancer can vary. It depends on the stage, grade and size of the tumour, the PSA level, your age, general health, lifestyle, and likely side-effects of treatment.

Some ways to treat prostate cancer include:

  • Active surveillance/watchful waiting
  • Surgery
  • External beam radiotherapy
  • Brachytherapy
  • Hormone therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Other treatments: cryotherapy, high-intensity focused ultrasound

Active surveillance/watchful waiting

Some early stage prostate cancers may be very slow growing. For this reason, some patients and specialists might decide to wait and see if the cancer is growing before starting any treatment. It may be an option if the cancer is not causing any symptoms and is small and only found in one place in the prostate. Some men choose watchful waiting because they feel the side-effects of strong treatments outweigh the benefits. Active surveillance involves regular check-ups with PSA tests and rectal exams and sometimes biopsies. If you start to have symptoms or if your PSA begins to rise, you can think about other treatments.

 
For more information on the Prostate Cancer Patient’s Charter please see our information leaflet  Prostate Cancer Patients Charter (pdf 524 KB)

Surgery

Surgery for prostate cancer is usually a total prostatectomy. It is also known as a radical prostatectomy. This is where the prostate is fully removed from the body. This operation is done when the cancer is found within the prostate gland only. This is because the entire tumour can be removed and the cancer cured.

The operation can be done by open surgery or keyhole surgery (laprascopically) or by using a robot. Your surgeon will discuss which option is best for you. See the booklet Understanding Early Prostate Cancer (pdf 2.8MB) for more information about surgery for prostate cancer.

External beam radiotherapy

This is a treatment where high-energy X-rays are aimed at a cancer to cure or control it. The X-rays come from a machine called a linear accelerator. This is known as external beam radiotherapy. In early prostate cancer, the radiotherapy is aimed at the tumour in the prostate gland. The aim is to destroy the cancer cells, while doing as little harm as possible to normal cells. This is known as radical radiotherapy.

See the booklet Understanding Radiotherapy, which you can download from our "Important cancer information booklets" list on the right hand side of this page, for more details about the types of radiotherapy and possible side-effects

Brachytherapy

Sometimes radiotherapy for prostate cancer is given from inside your body. This is called brachytherapy. Brachytherapy is a form of radiation treatment for cancer that is still within the prostate gland. Small radioactive seeds or beads are put into the tumour under general anaesthetic. This is so that radiation can be released slowly over a period of time. The seeds are not removed but the radiation gradually wears out and there is no risk of it affecting other people. Depending on the size of the tumour, brachytherapy may be given with external radiotherapy.

For more information, read the Prostate Cancer Charity's booklet on brachytherapy.
Also more information is available in the following booklets:

Learn more about radiotherapy

Hormone therapy

Cancer of the prostate depends on the male hormone testosterone for its growth. By reducing the amount of testosterone in your body, the growth of cancer cells can be slowed down or stopped. It can shrink the tumour and urinary symptoms can often disappear fully. See the Hormone Therapy factsheet (pdf 321 KB) and Prostate cancer booklet (pdf 1.42 MB) for more information.

Learn more about hormone therapy

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to cure or control cancer. Chemotherapy may be used if your cancer has spread beyond the prostate and is no longer controlled by hormone therapy. In some cases, chemotherapy will improve your quality of life with better control of your symptoms. See the booklet Understanding Chemotherapy, which you can download from our "Important cancer information booklets" list on the right hand side of this page, for more information, or learn more about chemotherapy here.

Other treatments for prostate cancer

Cryotherapy

This is a type of treatment which uses special gases to freeze and kill cancer cells. 

High intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) 

This is a treatment using sound waves to heat and kill cancer cells.
 
Both of these treatments are currently being researched to see if they are as effective at treating certain kinds of prostate cancer as other standard type treatments like surgery and radiotherapy. At present neither of these treatments are available in Ireland but are available in some centres in Europe often under a clinical trial.

Clinical trials

If a treatment looks like it might be helpful, it is given to patients in research studies called clinical trials. Trials may be taking place at the hospital you are attending. If you are interested in taking part, talk to your doctor. He or she can tell you if the trial would suit you or not.

Learn more about clinical trials

Further information

For more information on treatments for Prostate cancer, please see our booklets Understanding Early Prostate Cancer (pdf 2.8 MB) or Understanding Prostate Cancer beyond the Prostate Gland (pdf, 3.1MB).
 
For more information on the Prostate Cancer Patient’s Charter please see our information leaflet  Prostate Cancer Patients Charter (pdf 524 KB).

Call our National Cancer Helpline

Freephone 1800 200 700 to talk to a specialist cancer nurse
It's open Monday-Thursday from 9am to 7pm and Friday from 9am to 5pm.