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Treatment Options for Cancer

Most  cancer is treated with one or more of the following:


Every treatment has potential risks and side effects. Before any new treatment or surgery, make sure your healthcare team tells you about what to expect. 

Active Surveillance

Active surveillance involves watching the cancer and only treating it if there is any evidence that it is progressing. Doctors may recommend active surveillance based on factors such as life expectancy and the risk of cancer progressing. 

During active surveillance cancer is closely watched using prostate-specific antigen () tests, digital rectal exams, and biopsies. If a change indicates the cancer is progressing, other treatment options may be recommended.

Active surveillance may be an option for men with cancer who:

  • have a low-grade (slow growing) cancer and wish to defer treatment and potential side effects until it is necessary.

Watchful Waiting

Watchful waiting involves less testing than active surveillance. With watchful waiting, the patient and his doctor monitor any changes in symptoms.

Watchful waiting may be an option for men who:

  • have a life expectancy of less than 10 years.
  • have a low-grade cancer and wish to defer treatment and potential side effects until treatment is necessary.
  • prefer not to undergo aggressive treatment.
  • have other health problems that prevent them from being a candidate for other types of treatment.


Prostatectomy is surgery to remove the . Prostatectomy may be used to treat cancer that is only in the .

The most common surgery for cancer is a radical prostatectomy.  During a radical prostatectomy the entire gland is removed. In some situations, nearby are also removed.

During a nerve-sparing radical prostatectomy, the surgeon tries to save the tiny bundles of nervesone on each side of the that control the ability to have an erection. If the cancer is growing into or very close to the nerve bundles, these nerves may need to be removed.

Prostatectomy may be performed through an incision in the abdomen or using laparoscopy - where a small incision is made for a small flexible scope with a camera, which is used to see the . Addition small incisions are made to insert surgical instruments needed to perform the prostatectomy.

During laparoscopic surgery, the surgeon may use a robot. This is sometimes called robot-assisted or robotic prostatectomy.

Less commonly, prostatectomy may be performed using an incision in the lower abdomen (retropubic prostatectomy) or through an incision between the anus and scrotum

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is used to treat men with various stages of cancer. Different types of radiation therapy are used for cancer:

  • Brachytherapy involves surgery to put radioactive seeds in the to kill the cancer.  
  • External-beam radiation therapy (EBRT) aims radiation beams from outside the body at the tumor to kill cancer cells. This treatment can be used to cure localized cancers or help relieve symptoms if the cancer has spread. There are different types of external-beam radiation:

In some situations, the doctor may inject a gel between the and rectum before radiation treatment starts to separate the rectum from the and protect the rectum from radiation.

  • Radium 223 dichloride or Xofigo is used for advanced cancer that is resistant to testosterone-lowering treatments and has spread to the bones. It is given by intravenous (IV) injection.


During cryotherapy, a small incision is made into which probes are inserted. These probes freeze and kill tissue. Cryotherapy may be used for  prostate cancer or when the cancer recurs after radiation therapy.

Hormone therapy

Testosterone is a type of hormone known as an androgen. In men, testosterone is produced by the testes. Androgens can cause cancers to grow. Hormone therapy reduces androgen levels in the body or prevents androgen from reaching cancer cells. Hormone therapy is sometimes called androgen-deprivation therapy or androgen-suppression therapy. 

Hormone therapy is among the most effective forms of systemic (total body) treatment for cancer. Alone, it does not cure cancer. However, it can slow the disease from getting worse for a while.

Hormone therapy is used to treat men with cancer:

  • who have advanced or high-risk cancer.
  • who have rising  level despite previous treatment.
  • who cannot have surgery or radiation therapy
  • who have cancer which has spread outside of the

Several types of hormone therapy are available, including:

  • Luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) agonists block the production of testosterone. LHRH agonists include:
    • Leuprolide, leuprorelin (Lupron, Viadur, Eligard)
    • Goserelin (Zoladex)
  • Luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) antagonists are drugs that block the action of testosterone. LHRH antagonists include:
    • Firmagon (Degarelix) 
    • Orgovyx (Relugolix): Note that Orgovyx is the first oral LHRH antagonist approved by the
  • Anti-androgens bind to androgen receptors and keep testosterone from stimulating the receptor. This helps slow cancer growth. Anti-androgens are not typically used alone. They may be given before treatment in combination with LHRH agonists or LHRH antagonists. Anti-androgens include:
    • Eulexin (Flutamide)
    • Casodex (Bicalutamide)
    • Xtandi ()
  • Androgen-synthesis inhibitors can drop testosterone levels in a man's body lower than any other treatment. Androgen-synthesis inhibitors may be a better treatment option for men with advanced, castration-resistant disease. Androgen-synthesis inhibitors include:
    • Zytiga () is usually used with prednisone (an anti-inflammatory drug)
  • Orchiectomy is surgery to remove the testicles. This is used less commonly than the therapies above. Although orchiectomy is a surgery, it is considered hormone therapy because removal of the testicles suppresses testosterone production in the same way as LHRH agonists or antagonists and does not require ongoing treatment with those medications. 


Chemotherapy does not cure cancer.  Chemotherapy for cancer is used in advanced or recurrent cancer to extend life or improve quality of life. Chemotherapy for cancer may be recommended for:

  • Men with advanced cancer.
  • Men who's cancer has returned after treatment.

Chemotherapy for cancer may include one of the following:

  • Docetaxel (Taxotere)
  • Cabazitaxel (Jevtana)
  • Mitoxantrone (Novantrone)
  • Carboplatin (Paraplatin)

Treatment side effects

Your healthcare team should explain what you should expect from all treatments, including:

  • all of the possible risks and side effects of each treatment.
  • which side effects may be serious and how to tell. 
  • when and who you should call if you experience a side effect.
  • what can be done to treat or alleviate each side effect. 

Make sure you let your healthcare team know if you experience any side effects of your treatment. For more information about possible treatment side effects, see our section on Cancer Treatment by Treatment Type

Paying For Care
Paying For Care

Paying for cancer treatment

The majority of public and private health insurance plans are required to cover cancer diagnosis and treatment; copays, coinsurance and deductibles often apply. Patient costs and coverage for specific doctors, facilities or treatments may vary based on your health plan. Visit our section on Insurance and Paying for Care: Treatment  for more information, links to sample appeal letters and other resources. 

If you need information about finding an insurance plan, watch our video: Choosing Wisely: How to Pick Insurance Plans.

Some pharmaceutical companies have assistance programs that help cover the cost for their medications: 

Organizations that offer co-pay assistance:

Other resources:

  • The American Cancer Society provides information and resources on covering the cost of cancer care. Public assistance, such as Medicaid may be available if you are ineligible for other programs. 
  • Needy Meds: Assistance programs to help patients with cost of medications and other healthcare.
  • Triage Cancer offers tools and resources to help individuals cope with the financial aspects of a cancer diagnosis.

Open Clinical Trials
Open Clinical Trials

The following are studies enrolling people with prostate cancer.  

A number of other clinical trials for patients with prostate can be found here.

Last updated January 06, 2024