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What are the Benefits of Protons vs. Surgery for Prostate Cancer?

What are the Benefits of Protons vs. Surgery for Prostate Cancer?

When diagnosed with cancer, it is crucial to conduct as much research as possible regarding the various treatment options available. This is true for prostate cancer, as there are many different options, including surgery and radiation therapy. When deciding between these two treatment plans, patients should take into account the invasiveness of surgery versus quality-of-life and lifestyle maintenance with radiation. Proton therapy, a specific type of radiation therapy, offers many benefits that surgery does not.

Proton therapy is the most advanced form of radiation therapy available today, with the benefit of very limited side effects. Proton therapy makes it possible to deliver high doses of cancer-fighting radiation directly to prostate cancer, while decreasing the risk of excess radiation to sensitive surrounding tissues and organs, such as the rectum and bladder.

“Proton therapy is the least invasive form of curative treatment for prostate cancer, as opposed to surgery, which is the most invasive treatment approach,” says Dr. Smith “Jim” Apisarnthanarax, a board-certified oncologist who specializes in prostate cancer at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) Proton Therapy Center. “With proton therapy, patients are more likely to maintain their short-term quality of life, as there is no recovery period afterwards. With surgery, there is typically a recovery period to physically get back to normal.”

Patients typically experience little to no fatigue with proton therapy and bowel symptoms are rare. Symptoms of bladder irritation in the years following treatment are usually much less severe than those seen with other therapies. 

With surgery, there are always general associated risks, such as: bleeding, pain, infection, and other risks related to hospital care. Specific to surgery for prostate cancer, there is a higher risk of some degree of urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction compared to radiation therapy.  

There are a few instances when proton therapy wouldn’t be the recommended option for prostate cancer. These cases may include patients who have had prior radiation to the prostate, or very young patients. Even though protons minimize radiation exposure to the body, there is still some radiation exposure, while surgery has none. Additionally, if the patient has severe urinary symptoms associated with enlarged prostates, surgery is often more appropriate. 

At SCCA Proton Therapy Center, all prostate cancer patients will receive proton therapy treatment from an experienced team of specialized doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals in a state-of-the art center.

“Physicians that treat prostate cancer here at this center are highly specialized and experts in treating prostate cancer,” said Dr. Apisarnthanarax. “They work closely with UW/SCCA physicians, including urology, medical oncology and genetic counseling, to give comprehensive care.”

As with all cancers, patients should make researched, sound decisions after considering all factors and risks associated with each form of treatment.