Prostate Cancer: Treatment Options for Early-Stage Cancer

Treatment choices for a man with prostate cancer depend on several things. These include his age and overall health, size and location of the cancer, the results of lab tests, and the stage of the cancer. When prostate cancer is only in the prostate or has only spread to nearby areas, it is called early-stage prostate cancer. It’s also called localized or local prostate cancer. Your health care provider may advise 1 or more of these treatments if you have early-stage prostate cancer.

Active surveillance

The goal of active surveillance is to watch a cancer that is growing very slowly and will not likely do any harm for a long time, if ever. Active surveillance is done because the treatments for prostate cancer can cause more harm than living with the disease. This may be a strategy for you if your cancer is only in the prostate, does not cause symptoms, and is not likely to shorten your life. If the cancer is growing or begins to cause symptoms, treatment such as surgery or radiation therapy may be done at that point.


The main goal of surgery is to cure you of prostate cancer by removing the cancer cells. The surgery removes the prostate. Nearby tissues and lymph nodes may also be removed. This surgery is known as a prostatectomy. If the cancer can’t be removed with this type of surgery, your health care provider may advise other surgery to ease symptoms. One example is a transurethral resection of the prostate, or TURP.


This treatment is also called cryosurgery. The goal of cryotherapy is to freeze the cancer cells before they have a chance to spread. The health care provider freezes them by making a tiny incision and inserting a probe into the prostate. The probe sends liquid nitrogen into the prostate to freeze the cancer cells. This is not a common first treatment for prostate cancer.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy uses radioactive beams to kill or shrink cancer cells. There are 2 ways to have radiation therapy. One way sends radiation to the cancer from a source outside your body. For this, a machine sends a beam of radiation to your prostate. This is called external beam radiation therapy (EBRT). The other type of radiation therapy sends radiation to the cancer from a source inside your body. For this, tiny radioactive seeds are placed into your prostate using thin, hollow needles. Internal radiation is also called brachytherapy. Early-stage prostate cancer treatment may include EBRT alone, brachytherapy alone, or the 2 of them together. If your cancer is high-risk and may have spread to areas near the prostate, you may also have hormone therapy along with the radiation.

Making treatment decisions

Your health care provider may advise a specific treatment. Or he or she may offer more than 1, giving you a choice. This can be a hard decision to make. Each type of treatment has different benefits and risks. You may want to learn all you can about your disease and treatment choices so that you can make decisions about your care. You may have many questions. For example, you may want to know if treatment will affect your urinary or sexual function. You may want to know if you’ll have to change your normal activities. Talk with your health care provider to get answers to your questions, and take the time to make the best decision for you.