Understanding Your Diagnosis

The treatment of prostate cancer depends upon the stage of cancer, tumour grade, and the patient’s general health status, age, and PSA.

Once diagnosed, it is important to understand the treatment options that are available. Our team of healthcare professionals and support staff are committed to helping men along every step of the journey. The Calgary Prostate Cancer Centre staff will provide men and their loved ones with information on the various treatment options available.

Treating the physical symptoms of prostate cancer or prostate related disease is only part of the recovery process. Our Resource Centre is equipped to give patients and their families the information and support they need to overcome the stresses of diagnosis and treatment.

We also offer a complete library of the most current books, videos, journals and pamphlets on prostate related disease.

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Treatment Options

The treatment of prostate cancer depends upon the stage of cancer, tumour grade, and the patient’s general health status, age, and PSA.

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Treatment Options

External Beam Radiation.

High-energy X-rays are focused at the prostate tumors to destroy them. The painless radiation is given in short bursts so that normal cells have time to recover. However, some healthy cells around the prostate may also be affected.  This treatment requires treatments 5 days a week for 7-8 weeks. Each appointment lasts about 10-30 minutes.



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Tiny, radioactive “seeds” are placed into the prostate gland to shrink it. This 1-2 hour day surgery procedure is a way of delivering focused and higher dosages of radiation. Thin needles are computer guided to put the seeds into the prostate; the seeds are permanent.




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Cryotherapy is only available in a few centres in Canada.  Thin needles are inserted into the prostate gland and extremely cold gas is used to freeze the prostate gland. It is allowed to thaw and is then frozen again. This process destroys the cancerous cells and usually takes 1-2 hours, in the operating room. It requires a one-night stay in the hospital and a suprapublic catheter until the associated swelling subsides.

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Androgen Deprivation Therapy (ADT).

Most prostate cancers depend on the male hormone testosterone for their growth. Removing testosterone, or blocking its action, causes prostate cancer cells to regress. This is generally referred to as hormonal therapy but correctly called Androgen Deprivation Therapy (ADT). Unfortunately, resistant cells eventually develop which can survive and grow in the absence of testosterone. ADT can very effectively improve symptoms and quality of life. As well, ADT may also prolong life. ADT is generally used in the treatment of more advanced prostate cancer, but may be useful in combination with surgery or radiation.

ADT can be achieved in a variety of ways:

  • Surgical removal of the testes.
  • Medications that cause the testicles to stop making testosterone.
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Chemotherapy uses anticancer medications (given by intravenous infusion or pills) to destroy or prevent the growth of cancer cells. Chemotherapy is most commonly used in treating prostate cancer that has reoccurred in men, or if the cancer has spread to another part of their body. Usually, it helps slow the spread of the prostate cancer, prolong life and relieve the pain that occurs in the later stages of cancer.

Active Surveillance.

While some prostate cancers grow rapidly and metastasize or spread, others grow very slowly and are unlikely to metastasize. This low risk prostate cancer may not need to be treated as soon as they are diagnosed. Slow growing prostate cancer may not have time to cause significant problems and the complications and side effects of treatment (such as decreased erectile function or bladder control) may outweigh the advantages. In active surveillance, you will be carefully monitored by having regular PSA blood tests and Digital Rectal Exams (DRE) to determine if a repeat biopsy is required. Treatment can be given if the cancer is progressing or if the patient decides on further treatment.

Open or Robotic Prostatectomy.

Surgery is an option when the cancer hasn’t spread and is confined to the prostate. This can either be done by making an incision and removing the prostate (open surgery).

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Or by having a few smaller incisions with the doctor guiding robotic arms to perform the operation (robotic surgery).

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Lymph nodes may also be taken to see if the cancer has spread. Afterwards, you can expect a hospital stay of 2-3 days, a catheter to drain the urine (for 1-2 weeks) and approximately 3-6 weeks recovery time.

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The 2 main side effects include:

  • Erectile dysfunction – Most men cannot have an erection right after surgery because the nerves need time to heal. This may improve within 12 months to 4 years with no guarantee of erections coming back. However, there are treatment options that may help.
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  • Incontinence (loss of bladder control) – This is usually resolved within 9 months. During that time, wearing absorbent pads will help with protection.

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Telling Our Story

Read testimonials from men who have survived prostate cancer.

Connecting and sharing knowledge with other patients and their families is key to deeper insights and positive change.


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Newly Diagnosed FAQ

What are the wait times for surgery?

Once your urologist has booked your surgery, the wait can be 1-3 months, depending on the type of surgery and the doctor.

How do I see a urologist?

You need a doctor to refer you to one of the 16 Urologists in Calgary. This doctor can be from out of province.

If my PSA level is high, do I have cancer?

Not necessarily. High PSA level can be caused by a number of factors. Read more here.

After a surgical treatment, do I need to continue getting my PSA tested?

Yes. You will need to have your PSA tested at 3 and 6 months after surgery and yearly after that.

Does an MRI or CAT scan work in diagnosing prostate cancer?

No. These tests are generally not used to diagnose prostate cancer. If cancer is detected and it appears to be advanced, a bone scan may be done to rule out metastasis.

How do I re-book or cancel my biopsy?

Contact EFW at 403.541.1200

What is active surveillance?

Sometimes a biopsy shows that a patient has low risk cancer, but it isn’t necessary to treat it. Your urologist may discuss actively monitoring your PSA and DRE and perhaps order repeat biopsies.

Can I be treated without Alberta Health Care?

Please discuss this with your urologist.

Where can I get a PSA test?

A PSA test can be ordered from your family doctor, a doctor at a walk-in clinic, or at the MAN VAN. To find out when the VAN will be near you click here.

Do you know of any alternatives to surgery and radiation in reducing the growth of this disease via diet and exercise/ lifestyle change?

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and a healthy diet are good ways to help fight cancer and an exercise counsellor and dietitian would be able to help you with that. If you have a diagnosis of cancer, it is important to follow up with your urologist. Depending on the cancer, you may be able to have active surveillance, where a urologist would be monitoring your PSA and performing digital rectal exams regularly. If the risk becomes higher, surgery or radiation may be recommended.

What happens to my personal belongings when I go into surgery?

You will be admitted to Daycare. Everything will be stored there and sent up to your room on Unit 82 after your surgery. Please leave valuables at home.

Caring for Someone with Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer care often centers mainly on men in terms of diagnosis and treatment. While the man has to deal with the physical (and psychosocial) effects of the treatment, partners can also be deeply affected.
Health care professionals are acknowledging prostate cancer as a “couples disease”.

Below are a few helpful tips for partners looking to help their loved one through their journey with prostate cancer:

  • Participate in your loved one’s treatment.
  • Keep the lines of communication open.
  • Be flexible.
  • A willingness to take on extra responsibility.
  • A sense of humour.

Calgary’s Prostate Cancer Centres staff, volunteers, and medical professionals work hard to include all family members in a man’s prostate cancer journey. Our Resource Centre is open weekdays and there is always a cup of coffee and often an empathetic volunteer on duty.




“When my husband was in surgery I had no where to go. The only place I could think of was Calgary’s Prostate Cancer Centre because we had visited after his diagnosis. The staff and volunteers put me at ease and made the waiting more comfortable. I knew I would always be welcome there.”



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