Deciding on which treatment option is best for you or a loved one can be a difficult decision to make. Understanding the prostate cancer treatment options available in Australia can help give you select the right treatment option for you. There are several treatment options available in Australia for prostate cancer. Each prostate cancer treatment option presents its own benefits and risks. It’s important before deciding on which option is best for your current needs, to speak with your doctor or health professional for more guidance.
What to consider when selecting treatment options for prostate cancer
The available treatment may differ with respect to the grade of tumour, the scope of tumour spread, one’s overall medical health, along with life expectancy and individual personal preference. Therefore, not all options that are available would be suitable for all prostate cancer patients. Speaking with your health professional about the risks involved for patients in certain cancer stages can help narrow down your options for treatment.
Cost is also another consideration. There are many treatment options that are available in the public health system, which means that Medicare and government benefits will be able to assist to cover most if not all of the expenses. However, if you would like a specialist or request a referral to a specific surgeon or doctor, these costs can be out of pocket.
Treatment options may also be affected by the current health insurance policy you have. The coverage of each health policy varies and therefore not all treatments will be covered. This is also something for patients to consider.
Prostate cancer treatment options
The treatments are broadly categorised into two, those that are meant to cure the cancer (definite therapy), and those that are meant to slow down the development of the prostate cancer, and treat the prevailing symptoms. Treatments meant to cure prostate cancer include: radical prostatectomy, interstitial seed therapy/brachytherapy, and external beam radiation.
Treatments for slowing down the growth of prostate cancer consist of hormonal therapies and radiation therapy for symptomatic bone metastases. Chemotherapy as well as vaccine therapy are used for patients whose prostate cancer is refractory to hormonal therapy.
Waiting and observation
Another treatment option that can be relied on is watchful waiting or active surveillance. Watchful waiting does not involve treatment at the beginning. Instead, the patient is monitored with periodic PSAs, DREs along with possible X-rays. The principle of watchful waiting is that some Australian patients may not benefit from definitive treatment for their prostate cancer.
As far as watchful waiting is concerned, treatment meant to slow down the growth of prostate cancer is introduced for local as well as metastatic progression in the event that it occurs. Active surveillance is tailored towards the provision of curative treatment to Australians with prostate cancers that are likely to progress, and to decrease the risk of treatment-oriented side effects.
Currently in Australia, surgery is the most commonly practiced treatment with the intent to cure prostate cancer. The surgical procedure is referred to as radical prostatectomy that involves the removal of the entire prostate gland. Radical prostatectomy may be carried out through an incision that spreads out from the umbilicus to the public bone, through a perineal incision.
The choice of method differs with the patient’s body characteristics as well as the urologist’s preference. Interstitial seed placement also referred to as brachytherapy is a procedure that is marginally invasive and needs a single treatment. Analogous to radical prostatectomy, brachytherapy is a procedure with intent to cure. This process involves through the skin placement of radioactive seeds into the prostate. In addition to interstitial seeds, external-beam radiation therapy may be used with respect to the prostate cancer grade and stage.
Radiation therapy and chemotherapy
Other treatment plans in practice in Australia include radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Radiation therapy is mainly performed as a palliative treatment for Australians with pain caused by bone metastases. Chemotherapy instead involves the use of powerful drugs either to kill the prostate cancer cells or to interfere with their growth. Chemotherapy can be injected into a patient’s vein or taken orally.
The medicine thereafter travels throughout the body to reach some cancer cells that may have spread beyond the prostate. Ideally, Australian patients who are given hormone therapy prior to chemotherapy continue their hormone therapy throughout the course of their chemotherapy. Currently, the burden of medical decision falls on the patient. However, it is the job of physicians to offer the patient with the information that will allow him or her to make the decision.
Seeking financial assistance for prostate cancer treatment
Once you have a better idea of what treatment option you may want to consider seeking financial assistance for prostate cancer treatments. Although most treatments available in Australia have no cost, there are associated costs that can occur during the time you seek treatment. These include transportation cost, hospital accommodation costs and medication. Patients with basic or no health coverage can also find it difficult to cover these medical expenses.
There are only a few organizations or non-profits in Australia that can assist in providing support. These however do not provide financial assistance. Patients looking for financial assistance can seek help from government programs and bodies such as Centerlink. Alternatively, patients can fundraise online using a trusted fundraising platform such as PeoplePledge. Here patients can create a fundraising page online and seek financial assistance from family, friends and loved ones worldwide.
1) Treatment options: http://www.prostatecancer.org.au/PCI/Treatment_Options.html
2) Prostate cancer treatment: https://www.andrologyaustralia.org/reproductive-problems/prostate/prostate-cancer-treatment/
3) Prostate cancer: http://canceraustralia.gov.au/affected-cancer/cancer-types/prostate-cancer