A radical prostatectomy is the surgical treatment option for patients suffering for prostate cancer. This form of treatment is usually used in younger patients where there is good potential for curing the disease. When the cancer is contained entirely within the prostate, or has yet to spread far into the surrounding tissues or lymph nodes an otherwise healthy patient’s best option may be the radical prostatectomy. This form of treatment has yielded more positive results than normal radiation treatments.
Older patients (seventy years of age and up) are rarely considered good candidates for a radical prostatectomy due to the increased risks stemming from the surgical procedure.
The operation can be done through either a small incision in the abdomen or a small incision in the area between the scrotum and the rectum, the latter is often chosen to minimize the visibility of a scar.
The surgeon will remove the entire prostate and the surrounding seminal vesicles before reconnecting the bladder to the urethra to allow for normal urination. The procedure generally takes just a few hours, but the patients may need to remain in the hospital for just under a week.
The most obvious positive aspect of the radical prostatectomy is the fact that all of the cancer is removed from the body, hopefully allowing the patient to be cancer free. There is however some potential negatives associated with the procedure.
The negative side effect concerning men most is the potential for impotence. During surgery, while trying to ensure that all of the cancer is in fact being removed, there is potential for damage to the nerves responsible for controlling erections, thereby resulting in impotency or erectile dysfunction.
Other side effects commonly associated with radical prostatectomy are: urinary incontinence which often is only temporary but may take some time (even months or years in some instances) to go away, and infertility.
Doctors are now performing two variations of the procedure a nerve sparing and a non-nerve sparing.
The non-nerve sparing variation is the traditional and more aggressive form of the procedure. During this form the surgeon will remove not only the prostate and seminal vesicles but much of the surrounding tissue in an attempt to be certain that all of the cancer is removed.
In the nerve sparing for of the radical prostatectomy, the surgeon cuts much closer to the prostate in an attempt to salvage the sensitive nerves necessary for achieving erection, but even during this form operation the patient is still subject to erectile dysfunction.
Another big advantage of the radical prostatectomy comes into play if there is recurrence, in the event that the cancer comes back, radiation treatment can be used as a secondary treatment in an attempt to rid the body of cancerous cells again. If radiation is used first and fails, an attempt at surgery or salvage prostatectomy is a much more difficult procedure to perform.
Some surgeons are at present working on a laparoscopic version of the surgery and with technological advancements being made everyday, there may come a time in the future where this procedure is not only more effective making the patients who undergo it cancer free, but much less likely to cause the negative side effects that have become associated with it.
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