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The prostate is a small organ located just below the bladder. It is only present in men. The prostate surrounds the urethra, which carries urine out of the body. Cancer can cause the prostate to swell and obstruct the urethra, making urination difficult. Most men who have urination problems are suffering from non-cancerous enlargement, usually referred to as prostate hypertrophy; however, a lack of urinary symptoms does not exclude the possibility of prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer forms from cells that normally make prostate secretions, which are important for men in their fertile years. Like other cancers, prostate cancer begins when damaged cells grow out of control. Unlike normal cells, which live for a time and then die in the body’s natural renewal process, cancerous cells live beyond their normal life and begin to crowd healthy tissue. Prostate cancer can cause difficulty in urination, and it can sometimes be felt as a lump on the prostate during a rectal examination.
Here are some of the techniques used to determine whether you have prostate cancer:
- Thorough clinical examination. Checks for lumps or other changes.
- Blood tests, such as prostate-specific antigen (PSA). These tests measure certain substances in the blood that may suggest cancer.
- Biopsy. Prostate tissue is gathered for examination under a microscope to determine the presence of cancer.
- Ultrasound-guided biopsy (a transrectal ultrasound). Removes a sample of prostate tissue for examination under a microscope. This technique utilizes an ultrasound probe inserted into the rectum to visualize the prostate.
- Bone scan. A scan of the body to determine whether cancer has spread to the bones.
- Computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Checks to see if the cancer has spread to tissue around the prostate or lymph nodes.
Prostate cancer specialists at the Indiana University Health Melvin & Bren Simon Cancer Center care for patients from throughout the United States, offering advanced expertise that leads to better outcomes.
If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, your specialists will create a customized treatment plan based on your specific needs and the most current treatment recommendations for your type of cancer.
When appropriate, therapeutic options for prostate cancer can include one or more of the following:
- Surgery removes cancer.
- Chemotherapy destroys cancer cells with drugs.
- Radiation therapy destroys cancers cells or slows their growth with high energy, penetrating waves or particles.
- Hormonal therapy slows or stops tumor growth with synthetic hormones that block or lower the body’s production of testosterone that may support the growth of cancer cells.
If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer that needs removal, this may be done using special robotic tools, known as the da Vinci Surgical Robotic System. This method offers excellent outcomes and faster recovery times because it requires only five keyhole-size incisions.
Radiation therapy treatments can include:
- Computed tomography (CT) simulation. A radiation planning process using a CT scan to define tumor targets and internal anatomy in three dimensions. This technology lets radiation oncologists target tumors without affecting healthy tissue.
- Four-dimensional CT simulation. A CT simulation that reveals changes in internal anatomy. This allows radiation oncologists to aim the radiation exactly where it belongs.
- Image guided radiation therapy (IGRT). Uses precise radiographic imaging to treat tumors and protect normal tissue during radiation.
- Cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT). An IGRT technique that uses a limited CT scan to verify internal anatomy in three dimensions before daily radiation treatment. This technique delivers radiation beams directly to the target with extreme precision.
- Three-dimensional conformal radiotherapy. A computer-generated, three-dimensional picture of the tumor guides radiation beams to the target.
- Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). Advanced radiation that delivers radiation to targets located near sensitive tissues. This technique uses a computerized optimization algorithm to help radiation oncologists direct the radiation without affecting healthy tissue.
- Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT). Special equipment delivers precise, high-dose radiation to a tumor.
The prostate cancer program at the IU Health Melvin & Bren Simon Cancer Center is distinguished from others by our commitment to improving treatment through research. We innovate clinical care for prostate cancer through clinical trials that study new technologies and therapies.
Examples of current or recently completed trials include:
- Focused ultrasound heat therapy to treat prostate cancer when radiation is not successful
- New chemotherapeutic, immunologic and hormonal drugs for treatment of advanced prostate cancer
We collaborate extensively with researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine. These collaborations give our patients access to the most advanced clinical care available.
Ongoing clinical trials at IU Health Simon Cancer Center explore new drugs and treatments that improve the effectiveness of standard screening, diagnosis or treatments for prostate cancer.
Current trials explore the following areas:
- New imaging technologies for prostate cancer
- New strategies for addressing the spread of prostate cancer during surgery
- New technologies to detect changes in the chemical composition of tissue associated with cancer
- New methods for high-risk prostate cancer screening
Depending on your diagnosis, you may have access to one or more of these trials. More information about cancer research can be found on the Indiana University School of Medicine website.