Questions to Ask your Doctor: Early Stage Prostate Cancer

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:

Lymph nodes

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

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

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.

Grade

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.

Prognosis

The likely outcome or course of a disease; the chance of recovery or recurrence.