Prostate Cancer Treatment at Siteman Cancer Center


Patients who come to the Siteman Cancer Center for diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer are seen by a team of Washington University Physicians — surgical, medical and radiation oncologists — often during the same visit.  Experienced nurses then spend time with you, answering your questions and putting you in touch with resources that may help during this stressful time. These nurses offer patient literature on your condition, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery and other related issues.

Our prostate cancer program is internationally recognized for its pioneering work in the diagnosis and treatment of this disease. Our physicians pioneered the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test as a tool for early prostate cancer detection.  They conducted the world’s largest single-institution prostate cancer screening study with more than 32,000 men, and they led the NCI-funded PLCO cancer screening trial. They also have successfully confirmed the free PSA test for improving the accuracy of prostate cancer detection. With this experience in early diagnosis, they frequently handle problem cases in which a patient’s PSA level may be elevated, though initial biopsies do not uncover cancer as the cause for the elevation.

Our urologists are renowned for performing nerve-sparing (and potency-preserving) radical prostatectomies, in which small tumors can be removed with fewer long-term side effects. They have completed thousands of these operations, making our team one of the most experienced in the U.S. Rates of cure and sexual potency and urinary continence associated with this technique are generally higher in patients treated at Siteman.

Newer drugs, including new hormonal and biological therapies, fight prostate cancer by taking away cancer cells’ ability to spread through new tissues or form new blood vessels. They have pioneered studies of effective chemotherapy for patients with advanced prostate cancer.

Siteman also was the first medical center in the region to perform brachytherapy, or radioactive seed implantation, for prostate cancer. The seeds emit radiation for several weeks and remain permanently and harmlessly in place. Types of treatment used for prostate cancer depend on the stage at which it is diagnosed, whether the cancer has spread outside the prostate gland, the patient’s age and personal wishes.

Most men who get prostate cancer do not die of it. Washington University Physicians at Siteman are actively involved in clinical trials that investigate new chemotherapy regimens, and other approaches to cure. Having your cancer treated at Siteman gives you access to new therapies that are as good as – or potentially better than – current standard therapies available elsewhere.

Symptoms of Prostate Cancer

Usually there are none, but some men will experience:

  • Weak or interrupted (“stop-and-go”) flow of urine
  • Sudden urge to urinate
  • Frequent urination (especially at night)
  • Trouble starting the flow of urine
  • Trouble emptying the bladder completely
  • Pain or burning while urinating
  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • A pain in the back, hips, or pelvis that doesn’t go away
  • Shortness of breath, feeling very tired, fast heartbeat, dizziness, or pale skin caused by anemia

These symptoms are similar to another non-cancerous condition called benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH), an enlargement of the prostate that can occur as a man ages. The prostate may get bigger and block the urethra or bladder, causing trouble urinating or sexual problems. Although it is not cancer, surgery may be needed.