After your prostate cancer diagnosis – the treatments and their side effects
Once you have a prostate cancer diagnosis, and your healthcare team knows more about your cancer, such as the stage and grade, they will want to discuss treatment options with you. If your prostate cancer is localised to your prostate gland and is slow growing, you may never need treatment. But if your cancer is graded as a faster growing type or more advanced, meaning that it has spread outside of your prostate gland, you will probably be offered treatment. The treatment you receive will depend on your cancer, your individual circumstances, treatment availability to you and your personal preferences. Discussions with your healthcare team will also cover side effects of treatments. All prostate cancer treatments have some side effects.
To help you make an informed decision about your treatment and its potential side effects, this section of your toolkit will explain the different types of treatment, what each treatment involves, the possible side effects and how to manage them, and how you can find out and be a part of new treatments and/or clinical trials.
Active surveillance does not involve active treatment, such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy or surgery. It involves monitoring your prostate cancer with a strict and regular testing protocol for changes. Active surveillance is a safe treatment with side effects only related to any monitoring procedures used such as biopsy. However, it is only recommended for cancers that are classed as low-risk (slow growing and localised within the prostate).
Learn about active surveillance, when it is recommended, what is involved in monitoring your prostate cancer and how to keep track of test results. Find out the benefits and potential side effects, what happens if your test results change or if you want to move to active treatment, and how to look after yourself while on active surveillance.
Hormone therapy, also called androgen deprivation therapy or ADT, involves medications that reduce your testosterone levels aiming to slow your prostate cancer growth. Hormone therapy may be recommended if your cancer is locally advanced, or if it has spread outside of your prostate to other parts of your body (this is known as advanced or metastatic prostate cancer). It may be used in combination with other treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Find out the different types of hormone therapy, what’s involved, the different types of hormone therapy medications and how they work, what you need to consider before going on hormone therapy and the possible side effects.
Surgery to remove your whole prostate gland aims to actively treat your cancer by removing it. This medical procedure is called a radical prostatectomy. You may be offered surgery if your cancer is localised or locally advanced and you are healthy with a reasonable life expectancy. Although surgery will involve a short stay in hospital, it is a major procedure and does come with potential side effects and risks. Knowing what happens during and after this procedure is important in helping you decide on this treatment.
Learn about surgery to remove your prostate gland and cancer, what happens before and during your hospital stay, what to expect after your surgery, the benefits, side effects, risks or complications associated with surgery, how your pain will be managed and what to expect when you get home.
Radiation therapy, or radiotherapy, is an effective active treatment, which uses different forms of radiation to damage and kill cancer cells in your prostate. This therapy can be recommended at any cancer stage. You may also have radiation therapy in combination with hormone therapy, chemotherapy or after surgery.
Learn more about how radiation therapy may treat your cancer, the side effects and complications of this treatment, the different types of therapy, what to expect before, during and after having radiation therapy and any safety issues with having this treatment.
Focal therapies aim to target and destroy specific areas of your prostate, instead of treating your whole prostate gland. This can reduce side effects. However, focal therapies are experimental and emerging with only some of them available in Australia and none of them subsidised by Medicare.
Find out about the various emerging focal therapies, how you might be eligible, what they involve, which ones are available in Australia and how you can access these treatments.
Chemotherapy is well-known as a cancer treatment and involves a variety of anti-cancer medications with various side effects. It is used to treat prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. Fortunately, modern chemotherapy is less toxic, more effective and has fewer side effects than in the past. Chemotherapy has a range of benefits, including reducing pain, extending your life expectancy and improving your quality of life. It may be recommended in combination with hormone therapy.
Find out what modern chemotherapy involves, what to expect with each treatment, the different types of medications, how your specialist will know if it’s working, side effects and how to look after yourself before, during and after treatment.
Theranostics is an emerging therapy for advanced prostate cancer, especially aggressive forms, such as castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC). The most studied therapeutic agent used in theranostics treatment for prostate cancer is a radioactive material called Lutetium-177. It is used with the highly accurate scan called the PSMA PET/CT scan.
Find out more about this new and emerging treatment.
All prostate cancer treatments come with the risk of side effects, that can be temporary and easily managed, longer lasting and/or more serious. Treatments can affect you differently from other men so it’s important that you discuss all treatments and their side effects with your healthcare team before deciding on what path to take for your cancer.
Learn about the different side effects of each treatment.
Pre- & Rehabilitation
Exercises, specialist therapies and other support may be needed before and after certain treatments, such as surgery, radiation therapy and hormone therapy. This is called pre- and rehabilitation.
Find out the different healthcare professionals that aim to improve your recovery and quality of life before and after treatment, learn about the benefits of exercise or specific exercises such as pelvic floor exercises, and how diet and nutrition are important before, during and after treatment. Find out what to do before and after surgery, and how to get support for specific treatment-related challenges.
New & emerging treatments
New or newly researched treatments for prostate cancer are being developed and studied all the time. Learn about the various new therapies, tests and medications.
New treatments for prostate cancer are studied within clinical trials before they are widely available. Finding clinical trials that you are eligible for can mean accessing the latest treatments. Find out about clinical trials, what it means to be involved and how to find trials currently being run.
Your questions answered
How do I know what treatment is best for me?
Deciding which treatment to have for prostate cancer can be challenging because each treatment can have serious side effects. Before recommending a treatment for you, your healthcare team will consider several factors. They can help you be informed, in combination with this toolkit, to understand your type of prostate cancer and the different treatments and side effects.
Will treatment affect my ability to return to work?
Different treatments have different side effects and outcomes. Most will not affect your ability to return to work at some stage, but when will depend on the type of treatment and your response to it. Find out about the different side effects and possible complications of your treatment.
Why do so many treatments have side effects?
When treatments, such as surgery and radiation therapy, focuses on your prostate gland it may cause problems with surrounding organs such as your bladder and/or bowel. Hormone therapy reduces the levels of testosterone, a sex hormone, in your body. This can impact your sexual function, psychological wellbeing, bone health and cause fatigue. Chemotherapy travels through your bloodstream and can affect many systems of your body.
How do I access new and emerging treatments?
Talk to your healthcare team or a PCFA nurse on 1800 22 00 99 to find out if any of these treatments are applicable to you or available in Australia. You can also read more here: New & Emerging Treatments
Are there any clinical trials suitable for me?
There are often various clinical trials. However, they will have strict criteria for eligibility that you would have to meet to be part of them. Find out how to access these trials: Clinical Trials