When treatment has failed to cure prostate cancer patients and the disease has become advanced, they are usually offered palliative treatment, which focuses on relieving their suffering. Patients who have reached this stage have advanced-stage cancer and are terminally ill.
Palliative treatment in prostate cancer may involve shrinking the cancer enough to help the patient live a longer and better quality of life and to provide as much relief from symptoms as possible.
Sometimes, palliative treatment may be attempted in patients who have become resistant and nonresponsive to most modalities of therapy. At this stage, doctors have to weigh up the possible benefits of palliative treatment against the possible disadvantages and side effects.
Before palliative treatment proceeds, the patient needs to be counselled so they understand that even if they are undergoing what seems like therapy to cure cancer, the treatment is only being performed to help relieve symtpoms rather than to make them better. For example, chemotherapy may be administered in order to reduce the size of a tumor if it is causing an obstruction or radiotherapy may be used to relive bone pain. In other cases, pallaitive care may simply involve administering drugs to provide pain relief or to settle feelings of nausea.
One surgery that may be performed to relieve symptoms is transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP), which can help in cases where the prostate gland is obstructing the urethra and making urination difficult or painful.
Hospice care or end-of-life care refers to care that is aimed at treating the patient and easing their symptoms rather than treating the disease. It is commonly given at home and aims to make the patient comfortable so they can live life as fully as possible during their last moments.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc