Patients in Sky are still frequently advised to have treatment. It behooves them, therefore, to learn about its side effects. Unlike the other Stages of Blue, men in Sky have a choice—the option of postponing treatment by pursuing active surveillance. Therefore, shedding light on treatment-related side effects is more important than talking about cure rates. Patients must constantly remind themselves that Low-Risk prostate cancer is totally different from other types of cancer. Let me share a stark example, a colon cancer patient who relapses after surgery will live for an average of only 13 months. Indeed, a very terrible situation. On the other hand, a prostate cancer patient who relapses after surgery will live for an average of 13 years! Even the “bad” types of prostate cancer are slow.
Keeping this drastically less-aggressive behavior in mind, let’s consider another defining characteristic of prostate cancer—its precarious anatomic location deep in the lower portion of the pelvis. The prostate is positioned perilously close, within millimeters, to the bladder, the rectum, and the nerves that control erections. Treatment to the prostate commonly damages these closely-situated and sensitive structures, often permanently.
Trying to reverse the side effects of prostate cancer treatment is a gigantic industry. Patients often underestimate the potential side effects of surgery or radiation. They wrongly assume it will be like recovering from an appendectomy or gallbladder operation. Even the doctors who administer surgery or radiation become desensitized. Side effects are normal to them because they see them so frequently in their daily practice. In the rush to achieve a cure, it is common for concerned patients to think that side effects won’t happen to them. It is very important to slow down and “count the cost” before embarking on treatment. An essential part of the educational process for men who are newly-diagnosed is learning about the potentially serious and irreversible consequences that often arise from surgery or radiation. This is the subject of the next three chapters.
Mark Scholz, MD is the Executive Director of the Prostate Cancer Research Institute. He is also the Medical Director of Prostate Oncology Specialists Inc. He received his medical degree from Creighton University in Omaha, NE. Dr. Scholz completed his Internal Medicine internship and Medical Oncology fellowship at University of Southern California Medical Center. He is co-author of Invasion of the Prostate Snatchers. He has authored over 20 scientific publications related to the treatment of prostate cancer.