A diagnosis of prostate cancer can be devastating, confusing and scary, both for patients and their families. The second most common cancer in men globally, prostate cancer is often an unhappy fact of growing older and a diagnosis millions of men will receive in their lifetime.
One in seven men will develop prostate cancer sometime in their lives, says Vipul Patel, MD, medical director of the AdventHealth Cancer Institute Urologic Oncology Program. By age 80, around 80% of men will have cancer cells in their prostate.
British actor Stephen Fry recently joined those ranks. In a video, he revealed that his doctor discovered a tumor during a routine screening last December. An MRI and biopsy later discovered aggressive adenocarcinoma. As a result, Fry's prostate and 11 nearby lymph nodes were removed.
Despite the grim-sounding statistics on men's likelihood of developing prostate cancer, there's good news: when caught early, like Fry's, the disease is one of the most treatable and beatable cancers. In fact, early prostate cancer has a nearly 100% five-year survival rate.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that prostate cancer needs to be discovered early, while its still treatable. Says Dr. Patel: You want to find it before it becomes extremely aggressive and extremely high risk. Early-stage prostate cancer typically has no symptoms to tip a person off, so its very common for it to be discovered during a routine check-up, as in Fry's case. For this reason, regular screenings are vital particularly for men over the age of 50.
Treating Early-Stage Prostate Cancer
Men facing a diagnosis of early-stage prostate cancer are suddenly thrust into a world of decisions they hoped they'd never have to make. Among the treatment options at this stage are active surveillance, surgery and radiation therapy, each with their own pros and cons.
Active surveillance, or watchful waiting, is an option for anyone with low-risk prostate cancer, says Dr. Patel. A physician might opt for watchful waiting if a tumor appears to be growing very slowly not uncommon, as prostate cancer often takes as long as 1030 years to become detectable by a doctor.
Surgery to remove the prostate, as well as nearby lymph nodes in certain cases, is another very common treatment option. Radiation therapy, which shrinks tumors with high-energy x-rays, may sometimes be used in place of surgery to destroy cancer cells, or as a secondary treatment after surgery.
At AdventHealth, newer surgical advancements like nerve-sparing surgery successfully removes the cancer while avoiding common side effects, such as incontinence and loss of sexual function.
When it comes to treating prostate cancer, we are always after what we call the trifecta, says Dr. Patel. We want to first remove the cancer, then preserve urinary continence and sexual function. To this end, AdventHealth is home to the worlds most experienced robotic prostatectomy surgeons led by Dr. Patel with outcomes exceeding those of national standards.
The first day that I used the robot, I knew Id be giving patients a better outcome, says Dr. Patel. I don't know any surgeon who has done a lot of robotic surgery and then gone back to the traditional procedure.
With the help of the state-of-the-art da Vinci robot, Dr. Patel and his team can remove the prostate laparoscopically, allowing for more precise movement during surgery and shorter recovery times afterward. Dr. Patel has personally developed new techniques that have improved patient care and outcomes, and he has launched robotic surgery programs at hospitals around the world but he calls AdventHealth home.
A robot-assisted surgery is only as good as the surgeon, says Dr. Patel. The robot is merely a tool, a high-tech innovation that helps us do our jobs better. We have now performed over 11,000 robotic prostatectomies at AdventHealth.
With all of these treatment options comes big decisions. AdventHealth's experienced urology and oncology specialists work closely with patients to devise a customized treatment plan to treat, and ultimately beat, prostate cancer.
We are pleased to be able to offer our urologic oncology patients a multi-disciplinary approach to treatment, says Dr. Patel. Our experience is now unsurpassed worldwide. We continue to improve, and we are committed to continuous innovation.