Localized prostate cancer (cancer that hasn't spread beyond the prostate) is usually treated with surgery, radiation, or no treatment at all (also called "watchful waiting"). When the condition is found early, treatment can be more successful and a cure is often possible.

Radiation: Your doctor may use either an external beam or, occasionally, radioactive seed implants inserted surgically (called brachytherapy) to destroy cancer cells.

Surgery: The standard operation is radical prostatectomy, the complete removal of the prostate gland. An incision is made either in the lower abdomen or between the anus and scrotum, and the prostate gland is removed. This is the method most likely to cure prostate cancer.

Sometimes the cancerous tissue is killed with a cold probe (cryosurgery) that freezes it. This technique can also cause erectile dysfunction. This treatment is fairly new, so the long-term prognosis, compared to radical prostatectomy, is not known.

Is treatment always necessary?

Some slow-growing early-stage prostate cancers may not require immediate treatment. Through regular testing, the progress of the cancer and the level of your physical comfort can be monitored. For older men with other medical problems, this "watchful waiting" may be less disruptive than starting cancer therapy.

Treatment of localized prostate cancer depends on many factors, including the size, type, and location of the cancer. Speak to your doctor about your treatment options and their risks and benefits. Together you can decide on the option that's right for you. Both forms of treatment may have complications, such as bladder irritation, sexual dysfunction, and bowel symptoms. It's also important to understand the side effects of your treatment and what to expect.