Prostate Cancer

Future Research

Prostate cancer researchers are finding better ways to treat cancer, and the outlook for men with prostate cancer keeps improving. Still, it is natural for prostate cancer patients and their families to be concerned about what the future holds. Sometimes people use statistics to try to figure out the chances of being cured. It is important to remember, however, that statistics are averages based on large numbers of patients. They cannot be used to predict what will happen to a particular patient because no two patients are alike; prostate cancer treatments and responses vary greatly. The doctor who takes care of the patient is in the best position to discuss the patient's prognosis (chance of recovery or control of the disease).

When doctors talk about surviving cancer, they may use the term remission rather than cure. Even though after treatment has been completed many prostate cancer patients recover completely, doctors use this term because the disease can recur, or reappear after prostate cancer treatment.

Clinical Trials for Prostate Cancer

Many men with prostate cancer take part in clinical trials (treatment studies). Doctors conduct clinical trials to learn about the effectiveness and side effects of new prostate cancer treatments. In some clinical trials, all patients receive the new treatment. In the trials, doctors compare different therapies by giving the new prostate cancer treatment to one group of patients and the standard therapy to another group; or they may compare one standard treatment to another.

People who take part in these studies have the first chance to benefit from prostate cancer treatments that have shown promise in earlier research. They also make an important contribution to medical science.

Many clinical trials of prostate cancer treatments are under way. For example, researchers are comparing prostate cancer treatment against careful observation of men with early stage prostate cancer. The results of this work will help doctors to know whether to treat early stage prostate cancer immediately or only later on, if symptoms occur.

Doctors are studying new ways of using radiation therapy and hormone therapy. Some doctors also are exploring the use of cryosurgery, which uses extreme cold to destroy cancer cells, as an alternative to surgery and radiation therapy. In cryosurgery, an instrument called a cryoprobe is placed in direct contact with the tumor to freeze it, sparing nearby healthy tissue.

Researchers also are testing the effectiveness of chemotherapy and biological therapy for patients whose cancer does not respond or stops responding to hormone therapy. In addition, scientists are looking for new ways of combining various prostate cancer treatment options. Men with prostate cancer who are interested in taking part in a clinical trial should discuss this option with their doctor.

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