If you or someone you care about has been recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, then your mind is probably racing with questions. Understanding the disease and the different treatment options will help you arm yourself with knowledge and make educated decisions about how to move forward. Here is some basic information about the six ways to treat prostate cancer to help you get started:

Active Surveillance

Because prostate cancer is often slow to progress, active surveillance may be an option for treatment. Patients who choose active surveillance as a treatment option will need to consider their age, other unrelated health factors, and characteristics of the tumor such as grade, volume, PSA, and stage.

Androgen Ablation Therapy

Another treatment option for prostate cancer is androgen ablation therapy. This treatment suppresses the production of hormones, and can dramatically reduce the size of the cancerous area. However, since most prostate cancers eventually progress after this treatment, androgen ablation therapy is typically used in conjunction with another treatment.

Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy is a treatment option in which the cancer is eradicated by freezing the cancerous cells in the prostate. In this treatment, tiny, computer guided needles called cryoprobes are placed in the prostate. Argon gas is then used to create an “iceball” which results in cell death within the area of treatment. During this treatment there is constant monitoring of the surrounding areas to minimize the risk to healthy, surrounding tissue.

External Beam Radiation Therapy

External beam radiation therapy is one of two main categories of radiation therapy. In this treatment, a small amount of radiation is delivered in daily increments to the prostate, typically over a period of about 7 or 8 weeks.

Brachytherapy

Brachytherapy is the second category of radiation therapy to treat prostate cancer. With this treatment, tiny radioactive seeds are implanted directly into the prostate. The seeds are delivered through the perineal skin using needles that are inserted into the prostate while guided by ultrasound. Either low or high doses of radiation can be used with this treatment method.

Radical Prostatectomy or Prostate Surgery

The surgical treatment for prostate cancer is referred to as radical prostatectomy.   There are several types of surgical treatments, including laparoscopic surgery, robotic assisted laparoscopic surgery, and open surgery. Each of these surgical treatments involves removing the prostate, and gives patients whose cancer is confined to the prostate an over 90 percent chance of being cancer free 10 years after the surgery.

As you can see, there are many options to consider for the treatment of prostate cancer, ranging from the noninvasive active surveillance approach, to outpatient procedures, to radical surgery. There are many factors which will help determine the best treatment option for each individual patient. Tumor stage – how far the tumor has spread, tumor grade – aggressiveness of the tumor growth, and PSA levels will need to be considered, as well as patient characteristics such as age and other health issues that may play a role. Though it is wise to arm yourself with knowledge as you prepare to fight this disease, your best weapon against prostate cancer is an expert urologist, who can asses your unique case and guide you to the most effective treatment options for your situation.