If you have been diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer (cancer is only found in the prostate and has not spread to other organs or lymph nodes), there are a variety of treatment options to consider, and information to take into account before making any decisions. You want to be a partner in your care. When you meet with your doctor or treatment team, come prepared with questions to open the lines of communication. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- What is the clinical stage and Gleason score of my cancer?
- Is my cancer low risk, medium risk, or high risk for recurrence (coming back later)?
- What are my treatment options?
- What side effects might I experience with each of these treatments?
- Are any of these side effects permanent? Can they be treated or lessened and how?
- Is active surveillance an option for my cancer if I have a low volume, low Gleason Grade, early cancer?
- What are the chances of my cancer returning after it has been treated?
- What is my prognosis (chances of survival)?
- If I want to consult with another doctor for a second opinion, how do I share information between you?
- What exercise regimen is best for me to increase my longevity?
- What dietary changes are best for me to increase my longevity?
It may be uncomfortable discussing these questions with your doctor, but it will give you a better understanding of your specific cancer, and how to best handle it.
Terms to know from this article:
A rounded mass of lymphatic tissue that is surrounded by a capsule of connective tissue. Lymph nodes filter lymph (lymphatic fluid), and they store lymphocytes (white blood cells). They are located along lymphatic vessels. Also called a lymph gland.
Gleason Score (GS) - Gleason Grade: A system of grading prostate cancer cells based on how they look under a microscope. Gleason scores range from 2 to 10 and indicate how likely it is that a tumor will spread. A low Gleason score means the cancer cells are similar to normal prostate cells and are less likely to spread; a high Gleason score means the cancer cells are very different from normal and are more likely to spread.
Active surveillance is an option offered to patients with very low-risk prostate cancer (low grade, low stage, localized disease). Patients are monitored carefully over time for signs of disease progression. A PSA blood test and digital rectal exam (DRE) and prostate biopsy are performed at physician-specified intervals. Signs of disease progression will trigger immediate active treatment.
The grade of a tumor depends on how abnormal the cancer cells look under a microscope and how quickly the tumor is likely to grow and spread. Grading systems are different for each type of cancer.
The likely outcome or course of a disease; the chance of recovery or recurrence.