New Ways To Treat Prostate Cancer

Regular screening and advanced treatment options work together to help men with this common cancer.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer, after skin cancer, in American men. And though one in eight men will be diagnosed with it and it’s the second leading cause of cancer deaths in men, most won’t die from it. Regular screening is key to early detection—and treatment options are less invasive and more sophisticated than ever.

Rahuldev S. Bhalla, MD, a urologic oncologist and Chairman of Urology at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center (CBMC) and a member of RWJBarnabas Medical Group, shares what you need to know about prostate cancer and its treatment options.

What are the warning signs of prostate cancer?

Warning signs of prostate cancer often don’t appear until the cancer is advanced. That’s why we stress screening, which involves a simple rectal exam and a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test that measures the amount of PSA, an enzyme secreted by the prostate gland. You should start annual screening at age 50 or, if you have risk factors, at 45.

What are some risks for developing prostate cancer?

Age is the biggest risk factor. The chances of having prostate cancer increase after age 50; most men with the disease are 65 or older. Also, if a man is African American or has a family member who’s had prostate cancer, his risks are higher.

What are the current treatment options?

Depending on whether the cancer has spread and how aggressive it is, treatment options include radiation therapy, surgery, chemotherapy or some combination of those, along with other adjuvant therapies to keep the cancer from returning.

What special treatments are offered at CBMC?

We offer minimally invasive robotic surgery to remove the prostate, using a pen-sized instrument inserted through several small incisions in the abdomen. Robotic surgery provides significant magnification of the prostate and the nerves and blood vessels surrounding it, which allows the surgeon to do a better job of taking care of the cancer while avoiding injury to the adjacent tissue (retaining more of the nerves necessary to speed healing).

I’m one of the few surgeons using a new technique that involves placing an amniotic membrane around the nerves that have been spared at the time we remove the prostate. It speeds healing and allows most men to return to normal sexual function more quickly.

In addition, we also offer CyberKnife® Robotic Radiosurgery, which is a safe, noninvasive alternative to surgery that delivers beams of high-dose radiation to tumors with extreme precision, sparing healthy tissue. Treatment for prostate cancer usually requires five sessions and is an effective option for many patients.

Do most men with prostate cancer need chemotherapy?

Twenty years ago, every patient was given hormonal therapy. Today, after removing the prostate, we send it to a laboratory for DNA analysis, which allows us to determine the risk of the cancer recurring, and then we decide whether to give adjuvant therapy. This allows us to practice precision medicine.

If the cancer has spread—which happens rarely—CBMC offers life-extending treatments like hormone therapy, chemotherapy and immunotherapy, which stimulates the body’s immune cells to attack the cancer. We also offer novel clinical trials involving promising treatments.

Learn more about treatments for prostate cancer at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center.