As one of the DFW Metroplex’s leading providers of innovative prostate cancer treatments including da Vinci Prostatectomy and Calypso Radiation Therapy, Dr. Mark Allen of North Texas Urologists in Plano, TX discusses prostate cancer symptoms and prostate cancer treatment options.
Prostate Cancer: The “Prevalent” and “Inconspicuous” Cancer
Prostate cancer is the leading cancer for men in the United States with more than 230,000 men—almost 1 in 6—being diagnosed with the disease annually. When you consider this statistic, it would be fair to think that all young, and older men alike, would understand the symptoms and problems associated with this cancer. The truth, however, is that most men don’t have an understanding of what prostate cancer entails—at all.
Just ask Scott. When Scott, a 45-year-old telecommunications sales manager in Dallas, Texas, began experiencing a slight burning sensation when he urinated, he simply brushed it off as having a minor urinary tract infection that would go away on its own. Shortly after, he began having trouble maintaining a normal erection—something that he easily blamed as a sign of aging. When the symptoms continued to grow more troublesome for this father of two, his normal life routines became interrupted and anxiety over the condition began to increase. It was then that he scheduled himself for an appointment with a local Dallas, Texas urologist. With one simple prostate PSA test (prostate-specific antigen) it didn’t take long for his doctor to deliver the news that would change his life forever—he had prostate cancer.
While the symptoms Scott experienced did, in fact, probably save his life, the truth is that most men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer, don’t experience any symptoms at all and the ones who do, typically brush the symptoms off as part of life’s little nuisances.
Detecting Prostate Cancer
The prostate is a small, walnut-sized structure that makes up part of a man’s reproductive system. It affects how a man obtains an erection, how he urinates and it also helps to produce semen. Prostate cancer is a malignant tumor that forms in the prostate gland. This particular cancer grows slowly and typically produces little symptoms until it progresses. When prostate cancer symptoms do appear, as in Scott’s case, the cancer has usually progressed and is in a further stage.
According to Dr. Mark Allen, MD, a North Texas Urologist, the majority of men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer will, in fact, not experience any known symptoms. “That is why an annual physical is so important so that blood and urine samples can be tested. Simple tests will provide red flags for common cancers such as prostate. For example, if a young man has an elevated PSA test, this is a sign that there is something off and might possibly could be linked to prostate cancer. If this cancer is detected early, chances for survival are excellent,” says Dr. Allen.
Allen continues to say, “During routine physical exams, PSA tests are not always administered; most often, because prostate cancer is not viewed as a threat for young men under the age of 40. However, in recent years, it is becoming an increasingly more common diagnosis, thus, men must take control of their own health and request this particular test during routine physicals. As men increase in age, their risk of developing prostate cancer increases dramatically. Although only 1 in 10,000 under age 40 will be diagnosed, the rate shoots up to 1 in 39 for ages 40 to 59, and continues to radically increase thereafter.”
Advanced Prostate Cancer Treatment Options For Patients
For most men who are undergoing prostate cancer treatment, there are many options to consider—each with a number of pros and cons. It is important to discuss each prostate cancer treatment option carefully with your urologist or oncologist.
Calypso Radiation Therapy
According to Urologist, Dr. Mark Allen, MD, “Radiation cancer therapy has come a long way in recent years to help with the treatment of prostate cancer. One worry with prostate cancer radiation therapy is how it affects nearby organs. We use the Calypso® 4D Localization System on our patients and this particular therapy eliminates much of this movement. The Calypso system essentially acts as a GPS for the body using precise, real-time tracking of the radiation beam so that it targets and hits the tumor itself avoiding nearby organs.”
Dr. Allen is a pioneer in prostate cancer radiation therapy and was one of the very first doctors in the North Texas area to offer the Calypso 4D system as an option. Similar to the new advances in guided radiation therapy, there are also huge strides that have been made in surgeries to treat prostate cancer. A standard course of treatment is a radical prostatectomy where either all or some of the prostate, as well as tissue surround the organ, is removed. There are side effects to this surgery including impotence and urinary incontinence.
da Vinci Prostatectomy
According to FastCompany magazine, one of the leading print and online sources for innovative ideas and ground-breaking solutions, the da Vinci robotic surgery is a highly advanced technical procedure that has been proven to be more effective, quicker to perform, and dramatically less invasive than a traditional cancer surgery.
The breakthrough in robotic prostate cancer surgery involves making very tiny incisions to the lower abdomen allowing very small instruments and a 3D camera to be inserted into the patient. The surgeon then sits down at a nearby console where he or she views a magnified, high-resolution, 3D image of the prostate. The system then flawlessly translates the surgeon’s hand, wrist and finger movements into precise, accurate, real-time movements of surgical instruments inside the patient. Intrinsically, every maneuver performed with the da Vinci robotic surgical device is performed with direct input from the surgeon.
Because robotic prostate cancer surgery, in general, is relatively knew, it is hasn’t yet been adopted by many Dallas area urologists. Dr. Allen explains, “Many patients are still most comfortable with traditional surgery. For a surgeon, there is a significant investment in training and the learning curve is pretty extensive. However, once mastered, using robotic prostate cancer surgery as a treatment for this cancer provides the surgeon with instinctive control, range of motion, tissue manipulation and capabilities that are characteristic of open surgery but with the side effects of a more minimally-invasive procedure.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, who adopted the da Vinci surgical system in 2003, robotic surgery to treat prostate cancer is ideally suited for pelvic surgery in order to avoid the side-effects—such as penile dysfunction and bladder incontinence—that can occur to such a sensitive region of the body.
Dr. Allen continues to say, “Regardless of the prostate cancer treatment options a patient might choose, it’s important to detect and diagnose this cancer before it progresses. There are several distinct warning signs that men should be aware of to help catch this increasingly widespread cancer.” He offers some important symptoms to be cognitive of:
- Difficulty or inability to urinate
- Frequent urge to urinate
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Painful or burning urination
- Difficulty in having or maintaining an erection
- Painful or uncomfortable ejaculation
- Frequent pain or stiffness in lower back, hips, or upper thighs
While these symptoms could possibly be another condition—such as an enlarged prostate, BPH (Benign prostatic hyperplasia) or prostatis—which is a common inflammation of the prostate gland, it’s important to have a physical and the necessary tests performed so that cancer can be ruled out.