Questions to Ask Your Doctor: When You’ve Been Diagnosed with Prostate Cancer

Men diagnosed with prostate cancer have more reason for hope than ever before.  Progress funded and accelerated by the Prostate Cancer Foundation means patients can expect to live longer, more productive lives.  We are closer to living in an age when prostate cancer is considered a chronic condition, not a life-threatening disease.  It’s important to understand the basics of prostate cancer and identify with your medical team what treatment option, including active surveillance, is right for you.  Here are a few questions to help guide conversations with your treatment providers:

  • Can I avoid treatment at this time and be monitored under something called active surveillance? How does it work?
  • What is my Gleason score? What does this mean in terms of our approach to my treatment and prognosis?
  • What is my PSA level? If multiple PSA values over time have been collected, how fast has it risen?
  • Has my cancer spread beyond the prostate? Can it be cured?
  • Are there additional tests I can do to gain the most complete understanding of the stage and aggressiveness of my cancer?
  • What treatment options exist for this stage of cancer? Which treatment do you think is better for me?  
  • What side effects can I expect? Should I worry about incontinence, impotence, or  rectal problems?  If I speak to other specialists for second opinions before making a final decision on my plan of action, how do we coordinate it?
  • Is my cancer likely to come back based on what you know today?
  • How can I improve the success of my therapy? Are there dietary changes I need to make?  What about exercise?
  • Should I join a clinical trial?

Remember, you are a part of your treatment team. The more educated and proactive you are, the better.

Terms to know from this article:

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.

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.

Prognosis

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

Incontinence

Inability to control the flow of urine from the bladder (urinary incontinence) or the escape of stool from the rectum (fecal incontinence).

PSA

prostate-specific antigen (PSA): A substance produced by the prostate that may be found in an increased amount in the blood of men who have prostate cancer, benign prostatic hyperplasia, or infection or inflammation of the prostate.