Prostate Cancer FAQ - Ask The Pharmacist

Jun 11, 2014
The specialist pharmacists in the Express Scripts Oncology Therapeutic Resource Center® help patients and caregivers understand the condition and manage the complex treatment regimens that come with a prostate cancer diagnosis.
  • Cancer
  • Male

Prostate cancer ranks second only behind skin cancer as the most common cancer in American men. Approximately 1 in 7 men will develop prostate cancer during his lifetime. Fortunately, most men diagnosed with prostate cancer undergo successful treatment.

The specialist pharmacists in the Express Scripts Oncology Therapeutic Resource Center® help patients and caregivers understand the condition and manage the complex treatment regimens that come with a prostate cancer diagnosis.

Understanding Prostate Cancer

The prostate is part of the male reproductive system. It is a gland approximately the size of a walnut and located under the bladder. Almost all prostate cancer develops from gland cells within the prostate and grows slowly. Androgens, which include testosterone and dihydrotestosterone, are the primary driver of prostate cancer.

Who Is at Risk?

Risk factors for prostate cancer include:

  • Age: Men older than 50 are at the highest risk for prostate cancer, and about 6 cases in 10 are identified in men age 65 and older.
  • Family medical history: Having a father with prostate cancer more than doubles a man's risk of developing this disease. The risk is even higher for men who have a brother with the disease.
  • Race/ethnicity: African-Americans are at greater risk, while Asian-Americans and Hispanic/Latinos are at lower risk for prostate cancer.

Symptoms of Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is often asymptomatic in its early stages so tests are used to screen for the presence of prostate cancer. A physician can help determine whether a test is warranted given a person’s risk factors.

There are some symptoms that may indicate the presence of advanced prostate cancer and would merit a call to a physician for further investigation:

  • Urinary problems (difficult to start, decreased force, increased frequency, pain/burning)
  • Blood in urine or semen
  • Constant pain in spine, hips or back
  • Bone pain
  • Erectile dysfunction


Common treatment options for prostate cancer include several types of surgery, internal or external radiation, and numerous medications. In some cases, immediate treatment may not be necessary. A physician can recommend the best treatment depending on several considerations, including patient risk factors, extent and rate of cancer growth, patient health and potential side effects.

Surgical, radiation and medication therapies may have varied side effects:

  • Impotence is possible as a result of all three therapies but is considered temporary for radiation and medication treatments.
  • Temporary incontinence can result from surgery and radiation.
  • Treatments with medication or radiation may cause diarrhea.
  • Fatigue is another common side effect. Exercise is effective in combating fatigue that may occur during radiation.
  • Hot flashes are commonly associated with medication treatment.

For those undergoing treatment for prostate cancer, here are a few tips for healthier outcomes:

Do Not Self-Adjust: Take the right dose at the right time as prescribed by your doctor. This will help maximize efficacy and minimize side effects. If the side effects are severe, do not change the dosage without consulting the physician.

Eat Right: Several medications used to treat prostate cancer are associated with diarrhea. Severe diarrhea, defined by seven or more stools a day, can have serious consequences due to dehydration. For this reason, the doctor should be called immediately if severe diarrhea is an issue. Mild diarrhea can be managed by diet. Food such as oatmeal, bananas and rice can help treat diarrhea, while fried, spicy, or very sweet foods can promote diarrhea. A registered dietician can give more advice on diets used to minimize diarrhea. Accredo pharmacy offers nutrition support for its patients. It is important for patients to inquire about the proper diet plan to follow and to avoid drug-food interactions.

Stay Hydrated: Adequate water intake is important to prevent dehydration and combat some of the medication side effects such as diarrhea.

Stay Cool: Hot flashes can occur while taking some medications used to treat prostate cancer. A cool environment and light, loose-fitting clothing can minimize the effects of hot flashes. Avoiding caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods will also reduce the incidence of hot flashes. A chill pillow may provide relief from hot flashes while sleeping.

And last but not least, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. They can intervene to either change the therapy regimen or help alleviate side effects.

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