Treatment overview

The treatment you have will depend on a number of factors including the risk group of your cancer, your general health and what you feel will be best for you.

The main treatments for early prostate cancer include:

  • Active surveillance – you will have regular tests and examinations. If the tests show your cancer is starting to grow, you will be offered treatment that aims to cure the cancer.
  • Watchful waiting – you will be monitored regularly. If you have symptoms and there are signs your cancer has started to progress, you may be offered treatment to control the cancer.
  • Surgery – your prostate gland will be removed.
  • Radiotherapy – you may have either external or internal radiotherapy
  • Hormonal therapy – hormones given by injection or tablet can reduce the amount of testosterone in your body. Prostate cancer depends on testosterone to grow.

Your healthcare team will discuss your treatment options with you. You will be able to ask questions and have time to make your decision if you’ve been offered a choice of treatments.

Active surveillance

Active surveillance is when your doctors monitor your cancer and only give you treatment – usually radiotherapy or surgery – to cure your cancer if your cancer starts to progress. If your cancer doesn’t progress, you will avoid treatment and its side effects.

You may be advised to have this if you have a slow-growing prostate cancer (low risk cancer) or you have an intermediate risk cancer but wish to avoid having surgery or radiotherapy straight away.

Treatment for early prostate cancer explained

Oncologist Nick Plowman explains the treatment options for early stage prostate cancer.

About our cancer information videos

Treatment for early prostate cancer explained

Oncologist Nick Plowman explains the treatment options for early stage prostate cancer.

About our cancer information videos


Watchful waiting (watch and wait)

Watchful waiting is also when your doctor monitors your cancer. It’s a way of avoiding treatment for as long as possible. If your cancer starts to progress or you develop symptoms, you will be offered hormonal therapy to control it.

You may be advised to have watchful waiting if:

  • you are an older man with no symptoms from your cancer
  • you have medical problems that mean you are not fit enough to have radiotherapy or surgery.

Some elderly men who have watchful waiting may never need any active treatment because their cancer is very slow-growing and it is unlikely to affect their natural life span.


Surgery

Surgery involves removing the whole prostate gland. Men are offered surgery if they have a faster-growing cancer (intermediate- or high-risk cancer) and they are fit enough to have a major operation. The aim of treatment is to cure the cancer.


Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy uses high-energy x-rays to destroy the cancer cells, while doing as little harm as possible to normal cells. It is commonly given as external beam radiotherapy but it can also be given internally. Internal radiotherapy is known as brachytherapy.

Radiotherapy is commonly offered to men who have faster-growing cancers (intermediate- or high-risk cancers) and who are fit enough to have the treatment. The aim of treatment is to cure the cancer.

Radiotherapy is equally as effective as surgery so you may be asked to choose which treatment you want.


Hormonal therapy

Hormones control the growth and activity of normal cells. Prostate cancer depends on the hormone testosterone, which is produced in the testicles, in order to grow. Hormonal therapies reduce the amount of testosterone in the body. They can be given as injections or tablets.

Hormonal therapy may be given before, during or after radiotherapy to make the treatment more effective. It may also be given on its own as a treatment for older men or men who aren’t well enough for other treatments.


Other treatments

Other treatments such as cryotherapy (this is also known as cryosurgery) or high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) treatment may be offered to some men. These treatments are still being researched to see how effective they are so they are usually given as part of a trial.

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