Prostate cancer is the single most common form of non-skin cancer in the United States and the most common cancer in men over 50. Half of men over 70 and almost all men over the age of 90 have prostate cancer, and the American Cancer Society estimates that 198,000 new cases will be diagnosed in 2001. This condition does not always require surgery. In fact, many elderly men adopt a policy of "watchful waiting," especially if their cancer is growing slowly. Younger men often elect to have their prostate gland totally removed along with the cancer it contains—an operation called radical prostatectomy. The two main types of this surgery, radical retropubic prostatectomy and radical perineal prostatectomy, are performed only on patients whose cancer is limited to the prostate. If cancer has broken out of the capsule surrounding the prostate gland and spread in the area or to distant sites, removing the prostate will not prevent the remaining cancer from growing and spreading throughout the body.
Potential complications of TURP include bleeding, infection, and reactions to general or local anesthesia. About one man in five will need to have the operation again within 10 years.
Open (incisional) prostatectomy for cancer should not be done if the cancer has spread beyond the prostate, as serious side effects may occur without the benefit of removing all the cancer. If the bladder is retaining urine, it is necessary to insert a catheter before starting surgery. Patients should be in the best possible general condition before radical prostatectomy. Before surgery, the bladder is inspected using an instrument called a cystoscope to help determine the best surgical technique to use, and to rule out other local problems.
David A. Cramer, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,