Prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment

Diagnosis and staging

No two men develop prostate cancer in the same way, so we offer a wide array of resources to properly evaluate your situation and to create a personalized plan that fits your specific needs.

We may use any combination of these tests and procedures to diagnose and stage prostate cancer:

  • 3-D staging biopsy. Maps each area of cancer to a 3-D model of the tissue to determine the precise size, extent, and location of the cancer.
  • Bone scan. Takes pictures of the bones to look for areas of rapid growth that may indicate cancer.
  • CT scan (computed tomography). Uses a special type of X-ray and an injectable contrast dye to create detailed, highly accurate cross-sectional pictures of the prostate.
  • PET scan. A scan using a radioactive tracer to search for presence of cancer cells outside the prostate
  • Prostate MRI. Uses a strong magnet and a sensitive detector to create detailed images of the pelvis and prostate. Can find suspicious lesions in the prostate that would require biopsy.
  • Prostate biopsy. Removes a sample of prostate tissue for viewing under a microscope to look for cancer cells.
  • Transrectal ultrasound (TRUS) with or without MRI-fusion targeting. A focused ultrasound that uses sound waves to make an image of the prostate that can be fused with MRI images to better direct prostate biopsies.

Treatment for prostate cancer varies greatly from person to person. Your personalized treatment plan may include these leading edge procedures and therapies to help you become cancer-free:

Surgery. Specially trained oncologists remove the prostate and other affected tissues, called a radical prostatectomy.

  • Precision treatment with da Vinci® robotic-assisted surgery. This advanced technology enables our highly experienced physicians to perform minimally invasive procedures for prostate cancer using smaller incisions, more detailed images inside the body, and precise control of the instruments. In many cases this means you recover faster and your hospital stay is shorter.

Chemotherapy. Drugs that slow down, damage, or kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy is generally used only for advanced forms of prostate cancer. It may involve single drugs or combinations of drugs taken intravenously or by mouth. Chemotherapy is often taken in cycles lasting three or four weeks each. Your team may also prescribe drugs to reduce or eliminate chemotherapy’s side effects.

Radiation therapy or radiotherapy. X-rays and other types of medical radiation aimed at specific parts of the body. The radiation kills cancer cells, prevents cancer cells from developing or recurring, and improves many of cancer’s symptoms. Modern techniques of focusing radiation allow delivery of radiation to the prostate, while minimizing radiation dose to normal non-cancerous tissues. For certain types of prostate cancer, a type of targeted radiation called Stereotactic Ablative Body Radiotherapy (SABR) may allow treatment to be completed in 5 sessions.

Anti-cancer drugs & targeted therapies. Single drugs or combinations of drugs taken through intravenous injections or as prescribed tablets/capsules help fight the cancer itself or the side effects from chemotherapy. Drugs may be taken in repeating patterns (cycles) that usually last three to four weeks.

  • Anti-cancer drugs or other substances that directly interfere with cancer growth and progression at the molecular level may be taken—with few side effects—on their own or combined with standard chemotherapy.
  • Targeted focal therapy (TFT) treats low-grade, early-stage prostate cancer with precisely targeted cryo-probes that kill cancer cells by freezing. The goal is to preserve urinary and erectile function with this minimally invasive procedure that typically lets you return home the same day.

Hormonal therapy. Because the presence of some hormones can cause certain cancers to grow, hormone therapy as a cancer treatment removes hormones or blocks their action to stop cancer cells from growing. If tests show that cancer cells can find places to attach (receptors), various treatments—drugs, surgery, radiation therapy—can be used to reduce hormone production or stop them from working.

Immunotherapy. Uses your own immune system to fight cancer. Substances made by the body or in a laboratory—such as Provenge®—are used to boost, direct, or restore the body’s natural defenses against cancer.

  • Immunotherapy treatment with Provenge. This therapy trains your body’s immune system to attack prostate cancer cells. The treatment involves removing your white blood cells, mixing these cells with a drug designed to target cancer cells, and infusing you with the treated blood. Provenge is an FDA-approved therapy for men who have advanced prostate cancer that isn’t responding to hormonal therapies.

Clinical trials. Your medical team may also recommend participation in a clinical trial. UCHealth conducts hundreds of these “trials” of new treatments or drugs. Participation in a clinical trial may provide those who qualify with access to drugs and vaccines years before they are widely available.

Specialists from many disciplines will work with you to personalize a treatment plan. Whether you need minimal treatment or a radical prostatectomy, your expert medical team will include the specialists you need:

  • Urologists
  • Medical oncologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Pathologists
  • Clinical research coordinators (CRCs)
  • Nurse practitioners/Physician Assistants (NPs/PAs)
  • Nurses or Registered Nurses (RNs)
  • Nutritionists
  • Oncology social workers
  • Integrative medicine and complementary care therapists

Man talking to provider

Prostate cancer: learn more