Prostate Cancer in Seniors: Early Signs and Advances in Treatment

4 minute read

By Topic Insight Staff

Prostate cancer is a serious health concern for senior men. Given how the symptoms of prostate cancer can often be misdiagnosed, it’s helpful to research this information online before consulting a doctor.

As men age, the risk of developing prostate cancer increases, making it essential to stay informed about the disease’s progression, potential symptoms, and the evolving treatment options. Here’s what you need to know.

What Is Prostate Cancer?

Prostate cancer begins when cells in the prostate gland, a walnut-sized organ located just below the bladder in men, start to grow uncontrollably.1 This gland plays a vital role in the male reproductive system by producing seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm. However, when the cells in the prostate begin to mutate and multiply abnormally, it can lead to the development of cancer.

Early Signs of Prostate Cancer in Seniors

Prostate cancer often exhibits subtle signs, especially in its early stages, which can make detection challenging. Seniors should be vigilant about any unusual changes in their urinary habits, such as frequent urination, weak urine flow, or difficulty initiating urination.2

Other warning signs may include blood in the urine or semen, discomfort in the pelvic area, and bone pain. While these symptoms can be attributed to various prostate-related issues, consulting a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation is crucial.

Does Treatment Differ in Seniors?

Treatment approaches for prostate cancer may vary depending on various factors, including the patient’s age and overall health. In seniors, physicians take a more individualized approach, considering the patient’s overall well-being, life expectancy, and potential treatment side effects.

Some seniors may choose active surveillance, a strategy that involves closely monitoring the cancer’s progression without immediate treatment unless necessary. However, in cases where treatment is required, there are several cutting-edge options available.

Emerging Prostate Cancer Treatments

Traditional treatments for localized prostate cancer primarily involve surgery or radiation therapy, occasionally accompanied by hormone therapy. Another option, called active surveillance, has gained popularity among men with low-risk prostate cancer. This approach involves regular monitoring through biopsies, with treatment only initiated if the cancer progresses.

Over the past decade, novel hormone therapy approaches have been introduced for advanced or metastatic prostate cancer. Many prostate cancers initially responsive to standard hormone therapy eventually develop resistance, leading to castrate-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC).

PARP Inhibitors for Prostate Cancer

PARP inhibitors are substances that block an enzyme called PARP, involved in DNA repair within cells. Some prostate tumors possess genetic defects that limit their DNA repair capacity, making them susceptible to PARP inhibitors. Two such inhibitors—olaparib (Lynparza) and rucaparib (Rubraca)—have gained approval for select men with metastatic prostate cancer featuring these genetic defects, and when standard hormone treatments no longer prove effective. Ongoing research investigates combining PARP inhibitors with hormone therapies.3

Immunotherapy: Vaccines for Prostate Cancer

Immunotherapies harness the immune system’s potential to combat cancer. These treatments either empower the immune system to directly target cancer or stimulate it in a more general manner.

Two types of immunotherapy under prostate cancer investigation are vaccines and checkpoint inhibitors. Treatment vaccines are injections designed to prompt the immune system to recognize and attack tumors. Sipuleucel-T (Provenge), a treatment vaccine, has received approval for men with few or no symptoms from metastatic CRPC.

Immunotherapy: Checkpoint Inhibitors for Prostate Cancer

Checkpoint inhibitors are drugs that block certain proteins on immune cells, enhancing the immune system’s ability to eliminate cancer cells. Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) and dostarlimab (Jemperli) have been approved for treating tumors, including specific genetic subtypes of prostate cancer.

Pembrolizumab also received approval for any metastasized tumor with a high number of genetic mutations. While relatively few prostate cancers possess these genetic features, the overall effectiveness of checkpoint inhibitors in prostate cancer treatment has been limited. Ongoing research explores methods to enhance the immune system’s recognition of prostate tumors, potentially through combinations of immunotherapy drugs or combining immunotherapy with other treatment types.

Targeted Radiation Therapy and PSMA

Scientists have devised targeted therapies based on PSMA, a protein used for imaging prostate cancer. In treatment, a molecule targeting PSMA is combined with a radioactive compound, enabling it to locate, attach to, and destroy prostate cancer cells throughout the body. Recent clinical trials revealed that men with advanced prostate cancer receiving PSMA-targeting drugs survived longer than those receiving standard therapies.

These findings led to the FDA approval of Lu177-PSMA-617 (Pluvicto) for treating some individuals with metastatic prostate cancer. Ongoing and planned clinical trials are assessing PSMA-targeting drugs in patients with earlier-stage prostate cancer, often in combination with other treatments like PARP inhibitors and immunotherapy.

Learn More About Prostate Cancer Today!

Prostate cancer is a significant concern for seniors, but early detection and the latest treatment advancements offer hope. Recognizing the early signs of prostate cancer is essential, as is staying informed about evolving treatment options. Seniors should maintain open communication with their healthcare providers to discuss personalized treatment plans tailored to their unique circumstances.

To learn more about prostate cancer, including the early warning signs and any new breakthrough treatments, continue searching online.

Topic Insight Staff

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