Dealing with a Diagnosis
When your doctor suspects you may have prostate cancer, they will order more tests, which may include:
- A repeat test of the level of PSA in your blood
- A digital rectal exam, or DRE
- An ultrasound
- An MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging scan
- A biopsy
- A complete and thorough health history, including, if needed, additional routine tests to assess your overall health
The results of these tests allow the doctor to confirm your cancer and assess its grade and stage. The grade and stage of your cancer help your doctor develop a recommended treatment plan.
What To Do Next?
If you’re in this situation, learning that you may have cancer, you’re probably more than a little upset and frightened. That’s normal. But it may help you to know that most cases of prostate cancer are treated with a high rate of success.
Learn more about prostate cancer survival rates.
It might help you to know, too, that what happens next is partly up to you. You are an active participant in your own healthcare. There’s no one-size-fits-all treatment for all men. The medical team you choose will help guide you through the next weeks and months to determine the best way to treat your prostate cancer.
The decision-making process will involve a lot of factors, including:
- The need for treatment
- Your family genetics
- Your level of risk, based on the stage and grade of your cancer
- Your personal circumstances
- Your desire to maintain your fertility
- Your desire for a certain therapy based on risks and benefits
Your Medical Team
At this point, you’re going to begin assembling your team of healthcare providers to see you through your treatment. After a diagnosis of prostate cancer, you should see both a urologist (preferably a urologic oncologist) and a radiation oncologist to review all of your treatment options. In some cases, a medical oncologist should also be seen to review additional systemic therapy options.
Oncology is a wide and varied field. Many oncologists specialize in either a type of cancer, such as hematology oncology (blood cancers) or urological oncology (cancers of the prostate and urinary tract). Others specialize in treatment types, such as radiation oncologists, who focus on radiotherapy, or medical or surgical oncologists, who are experts in the use of medicines or surgery in treating cancer.
Beginning with your diagnosing doctor, you are free to choose your own practitioners. If at all possible, seek out a physician who is a specialist in your type of cancer. Take into consideration whether a given doctor or practice is covered by your health plan. A multidisciplinary prostate cancer care team will give you the most comprehensive assessment of the available treatments and expected outcomes, because each physician has expertise in different areas. Many hospitals and universities have multidisciplinary prostate cancer clinics that can provide a consultation on what team of practitioners might be right for you.
Perhaps most importantly, think about your doctor’s communication style. It’s important that you feel heard, and that your doctor and their staff take the time to explain things to you at a level that works for you. The team should be able to guide you in learning what you need to know to feel comfortable as you move through the treatment process, no matter how much prior knowledge you have. Once you’ve selected a primary physician you like and trust, they can refer you to professionals to round out your team.
Learn more about assembling your medical team by downloading the Prostate Cancer Patient Guide.