The Comprehensive Prostate Program gives patients access to the most advanced care plans, designed to maximize chances of recovery while minimizing treatment side effects and meeting your unique needs.
Prostate cancer is a complex illness, and this diagnosis can be life changing. Our multidisciplinary team of experts - including our specialized Nurse Navigator - assists each and every patient at every step of the prostate cancer journey, from diagnosis and treatment to supportive care and survivorship.
Prostate cancer occurs when prostate cells grow out of control. It is important to note that an enlarged prostate due to an increase in the number of normal prostate cells (benign prostatic hyperplasia) is not a form of cancer.
Our online Learning Center has up-to-date, evidence-based information about numerous topics related to prostate cancer, including diagnostic tests, treatment options, management of treatment side effects, and more.
These resources are not a substitute for the guidance of your physician but can help you learn more about prostate cancer and what to expect during treatment.
Most people with prostate cancer do not have symptoms until the disease is in its later stages. Symptoms may include:
- decreased urine flow
- the feeling of not fully emptying your bladder
- needing to get up often during the night to urinate
- blood in the urine
- swelling of the penis, scrotum, legs and feet
- difficulty getting an erection
- pain in the hips, thighs and lower back
Many diseases of the male urinary tract have similar symptoms. If you are experiencing any of the above, please contact your doctor.
Early detection of cancer can be key to successful treatment, so it is important to understand what increases your risk of prostate cancer. Current research has shown that key risk factors include:
- Family History: This is the most important risk factor for prostate cancer.
- Men with one first degree relative (a father or brother) with prostate cancer have twice the risk of developing prostate cancer. Men with two or three first degree relatives with prostate cancer have five and eleven times the risk (respectively).
- A number of genes have been implicated in prostate cancer, including the BRCA-2 gene. BRCA-2 is known to cause breast and ovarian cancer in women, as well. Currently, there is no routine genetic testing performed in men.
- Age: The risk of prostate cancer increases as men age. After age 50, 30% of men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. After age 80, this number increases to 60-70%.
- Race and Ethnicity: African-American men have a 70% higher risk of having prostate cancer. They are also more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer at higher stages and are more than twice as likely to die of prostate cancer.
- Increased Risk: A diet high in fats from foods such as red meat and dairy products.
- Decreased Risk: A diet high in lycopene (antioxidant found in tomatoes, watermelon, red grapefruit, and asparagus), selenium, and vitamin E.
Early stage prostate cancer usually does not cause noticeable symptoms. This makes early detection - which is key to successful treatment - more difficult. Therefore, prostate cancer screening is very important.
When should I get screened?
At Middlesex Health, we recommend that men begin prostate cancer screening at the following ages:
- Men with Higher Risk: Begin yearly screenings at 40 years old
- Men with Normal Risk: Begin yearly screenings at 70 years old
There are many different recommendations for prostate cancer screening from organizations such as the American Cancer Society, American Medical Association, American Urological Association, and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. There is also debate over the benefits of screening. The most important step you can take is to discuss screening with your doctors and determine the best plan based on your health and risk level.
Prostate cancer screening and diagnosis takes place using a combination of tests, including:
- PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen): A test to determine the level of this protein in the blood. It is produced by healthy and cancerous prostate cells, and it is often elevated in men with prostate cancer.
- DRE (Digital Rectal Exam): A test in which your doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to feel the prostate, which lies in front of the rectum.
- Prostate Biopsy: The doctor will remove 10-12 small tissue samples from the prostate, and these will be examined for abnormal and cancerous cells. The procedure is done after an abnormal PSA or DRE and can be done in the doctor's office with a local anesthetic. The biopsy takes approximately 20 minutes, and results will be available in seven to 10 days.
UroNav MRI-Guided Biopsy
Middlesex Health is proud to offer UroNav, an innovative approach to prostate biopsies. The UroNav system fuses traditional ultrasound images with MRI images taken before your biopsy, to create clear images of the prostate and potential cancers. This allows your doctor to take biopsy samples from specific locations, reducing the number of biopsies needed to make a diagnosis.
What does this mean for me?
- A UroNav MRI-Guided Biopsy is highly targeted, reducing the need for repeat testing. This means less stress and less pain for patients.
How is this different from a traditional biopsy?
- During a traditional biopsy, doctors use ultrasound images alone to guide the biopsy needle and decide which areas of the prostate to sample. Ultrasound images are not clear enough to see cancers, so tissue samples are taken from the prostate at random. This means that a cancer can easily be missed, and patients often need additional biopsies.
There are many ways prostate cancer can be treated, and the evidence-based plan your doctors choose is based on a number of factors: type of cancer, grade and stage of the cancer, your overall health, and your treatment preferences. Doctors will also consider your PSA value and how fast it is increasing.
Active Surveillance (Watchful Waiting)
If your prostate cancer is determined to be low-risk, the best course of action may be to postpone treatment and watch carefully to see if the disease progresses.
What is a low-risk cancer?
- A low-risk prostate cancer either grows very slowly or not at all. It is not an agressive form of prostate cancer.
What is the benefit of postponing treatment?
- In cases of low-risk cancer, treatment may be postponed in order to avoid over-treatment. Some patients can avoid surgery or radiation all together.
What if my prostate cancer starts to advance/progress?
- Your doctor will closely monitor your cancer. If there are changes, which would show up in repeat PSA testing, DRE testing, or biopsies, your doctor will develop an appropriate treatment plan.
Is there scientific evidence supporting this approach?
- Yes, the American Urological Association and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommend active surveillance in carefully-selected cases.
The expert physicians at Middlesx Urology Group provide surgical treatment for prostate cancer patients at Middlesex Health. Surgical options include:
- Radical Prostatectomy: A treatment for localized cancer (in or near the prostate) that includes removal of:
- the prostate
- some surrounding tissue (if needed)
- nearby lymph nodes in the pelvis (if needed)
- daVinci® SI Robot-Assisted Surgery: A robotic system used by specially trained Middlesex Health Surgeons to complete complex surgeries through just a few tiny incisions.
- Hormone Therapy: Androgen Deprivation Thearpy (ADT)
- Some male hormones, such as testosterone (an androgen), feed the development and growth of prostate cancer. Removing or blocking these hormones will cause most prostate cancers to shrink.
- Anti-androgens are available as oral or injectable medications.
- Orchiectomy, or surgical removal of the testicles, is also an option for men with advanced disease or who do not want long term medical thearpy. Because testicles produce the body's testosterone, there removal immediately causes the body's hormone levels to drop.
- Chemotherapy & Immunotherapy
Chemotherapy for prostate cancer involves the use of medications to shrink or kill cancerous cells. These medications may be taken intravenously (IV) or as pills.
The board-certified medical oncologists, nurses, and technicians at Connecticut Oncology Group provide the most effective, advanced care with warm, personal attention and support for patients and their families. Your medical oncology team will work closely with your other providers and help provide access to clinical trials.
Radiation oncology is the highly-controlled use of radiation to cure or treat symptoms of your cancer.
- High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU): A treatment that destroys prostate cancer using ultrasound. This is an outpatient procedure under ultrasound guidance and general anesthesia.
- Cryotherapy: This method destroys prostate cancer by freezing it. Middlesex Health does not offer this service; if you are interested, please speak with your doctor.