The prostate is part of the male reproductive system. It is a small organ below the bladder that makes fluid for semen. The prostate surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body through the penis. Prostate cancer is the abnormal growth of cells in the prostate gland. Prostate cancer cells can spread within the prostate, to nearby lymph nodes and other tissues, and to other parts of the body.
When the cancer hasn't spread outside the prostate, it is called localized prostate cancer. With localized prostate cancer, your options depend on how likely it is that your cancer will grow. Test results, including the Gleason score from your prostate biopsy, will show if your cancer is likely to grow.
- Low-risk cancer isn't likely to grow right away. If your cancer is low-risk, you can choose active surveillance. This means your cancer will be watched closely by your doctor with regular checkups and tests to see if the cancer grows. This choice allows you to delay having surgery or radiation, often for many years. If the cancer grows very slowly, you may never need treatment.
- Medium-risk cancer is more likely to grow. Some people with this type of cancer may be able to choose active surveillance. Others may need to choose surgery or radiation.
- High-risk cancer is most likely to grow. If you have high-risk cancer, you will likely need to choose surgery or radiation.
If your cancer has already spread outside the prostate or to other parts of the body, then you may have other treatments, like chemotherapy or hormone therapy.
If you are older or have other serious health problems, like heart disease, you may choose not to have treatments to cure your cancer. Instead, you can just have treatments to manage your symptoms. This is called watchful waiting.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
How can you care for yourself at home?
- Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
- Follow your doctor's instructions to relieve pain. Pain from cancer and surgery can almost always be controlled. Use pain medicine when you first notice pain, before it becomes severe.
- Eat healthy food. If you do not feel like eating, try to eat food that has protein and extra calories to keep up your strength and prevent weight loss.
- Get some physical activity every day, but do not get too tired.
- Get enough sleep, and take time to do things you enjoy. This can help reduce stress.
- Think about joining a support group. Or discuss your concerns with your doctor or a counselor.
- If you are vomiting or have diarrhea:
- Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Choose water and other clear liquids. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
- When you are able to eat, try clear soups, mild foods, and liquids until all symptoms are gone for 12 to 48 hours. Jell-O, dry toast, crackers, and cooked cereal are also good choices.
- If you have not already done so, prepare a list of advance directives. Advance directives are instructions to your doctor and family members about what kind of care you want if you become unable to speak or express yourself.
When should you call for help?
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
- You passed out (lost consciousness).
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
- You have new or worse pain.
- You have new symptoms, such as a cough, belly pain, vomiting, diarrhea, or a rash.
- You are unable to urinate.
- You have symptoms of a urinary tract infection. For example:
- You have blood or pus in your urine.
- You have pain in your back just below your rib cage. This is called flank pain.
- You have a fever, chills, or body aches.
- It hurts to urinate.
- You have groin or belly pain.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
- You have swollen glands in your armpits, groin, or neck.
- You have trouble controlling your urine.
- You do not get better as expected.
Where can you learn more?
Enter V141 in the search box to learn more about "Prostate Cancer: Care Instructions".