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Prostate Cancer Surgery

Surgery is a treatment choice for men with prostate cancer who are in good health. Surgery to remove the prostate is called prostatectomy.


The gold standard treatment option for men under 70 with early-stage, organ-confined cancer is surgical removal of the prostate using nerve-sparing radical prostatectomy. Prostatectomy is also the most widely used treatment for prostate cancer today in the US.

The primary goal of prostatectomy is removal of the cancer. A secondary goal is to preserve urinary function and—when applicable—erectile function. Preservation of the nerves necessary for erections can be an extremely important goal for patients. These nerves run alongside the prostate and are often damaged when removing the prostate. A nerve-sparing prostatectomy attempts to preserve these nerves so that the patient may be able to return to his prior erectile function.

Types of Prostatectomy

Approaches to this procedure include traditional open surgery, conventional laparoscopic surgery or da Vinci ® Prostatectomy, which is a robot-assisted laparoscopic surgery.

Traditional open surgery

With a traditional open procedure, your surgeon uses an 8-10 inch incision to access the prostate. This approach often results in substantial blood loss, a lengthy, uncomfortable recovery and a risk of impotence and incontinence.

Laparoscopic surgery

Conventional laparoscopy uses a specialized surgical camera and rigid instruments to access and remove the prostate using a series of small incisions. This approach provides your surgeon with better visualization than an open approach. In addition, it provides patients the benefits of a minimally invasive procedure.

da Vinci® Prostatectomy

da Vinci Prostatectomy uses a smaller incision than traditional surgery.

Referred to by many as robotic surgery for prostate cancer or robotic prostatectomy, da Vinci® Prostatectomy is more accurately a robot-assisted, minimally invasive surgery that is quickly becoming the preferred treatment for removal of the prostate following early diagnosis of prostate cancer. In fact, studies suggest that da Vinci Prostatectomy may be the most effective, least invasive prostate surgery performed today.

Though any diagnosis of cancer can be traumatic, the good news is that if your doctor recommends prostate surgery, the cancer was probably caught early. And, with da Vinci Prostatectomy, the likelihood of a complete recovery from prostate cancer without long-term side effects is, for most patients, better than it has ever been.

da Vinci Prostatectomy is performed with the assistance of the da Vinci Surgical System – the latest evolution in robotics technology. The da Vinci Surgical System enables surgeons to operate with unmatched precision and control using only a few small incisions. Recent studies suggest that da Vinci Prostatectomy may offer improved cancer control and a faster return to potency and continence. da Vinci Prostatectomy also offers these potential benefits:

  • Significantly less pain
  • Less blood loss
  • Fewer complications
  • Less scarring
  • A shorter hospital stay
  • A faster return to normal daily activities

Prostate Brachytherapy

Ultrasound-guided radioactive seed implantation in cancerous prostate glands is an effective method of treatment when early stage cancer is confined to the prostate. The procedure does not require surgical incision.

Tiny radioactive pellets, each smaller than a grain of rice, are precisely positioned in the prostate by passing a needle through the skin. The seeds contain radioactive Palladium 103 or Iodine 125. These give off x-ray energy that kills cancer cells. Healthy tissues also get a small dose of radiation. Seeds lose strength as months go by. They are no longer radioactive after one year.

Low rates of complications such as incontinence and impotence make this method appealing for those it is an option for. An eight-year Gundersen Health System study shows this outpatient procedure allows more rapid return to normal activities with fewer lasting side effects and no significant reduction of projected cure rates.

Radioactive seed implant therapy continues to show promise. Five years post-implant, more than 85 percent of survivors treated with this method at Gundersen are cancer-free.

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