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Surgical Procedures for Prostate Cancer

Surgery is often a part of treatment. The are different types. The type will be based on the stage of cancer, age, and overall health. The goal of surgery is to remove as much of the cancer as possible.

Surgery for Early Stage Prostate Cancer

In early stage, the cancer has not spread outside of the prostate. Surgery is more likely to lead to a cure in this stage.

Radical Prostatectomy

A radical prostatectomy will remove the prostate. It will also remove attached tubes called seminal vesicles and part of the vas deferens.

There are 2 methods:

  • Radical retropubic prostatectomy —The doctor will enter through the lower belly. The doctor will look around the pelvis. Lymph nodes may be tested. The surgery may be stopped if the cancer has spread outside of prostate. Nerves that control erections are in this area too. Steps will be taken to spare these nerves when possible. The surgery will also affect the ability to pass urine. For most, this will only last 1 to 2 weeks.
  • Radical perineal prostatectomy —A cut is made through the area between the scrotum and anus. The prostate is removed. This method works closer to nerves that control erections. There can be a higher risk of damage to these nerves. It can lead to problems getting or keeping an erection. A cut may need to be made in the belly if lymph nodes need to be removed. The surgery will also affect the ability to pass urine. For most, this will only last 1 to 2 weeks.

Prostatectomies can be done as:

  • Open —A cut is made through the belly. It starts at the belly button and ends at the pubic bone. The prostate is found and removed through the cut.
  • Laparoscopic —Small cuts are made in the belly. Tools are passed through these cuts. A tube with a lighted camera can let the doctor see inside the pelvis. Other tools will be used to removed tissue. Healing time is often shorter with this type of surgery compared to open.
  • Robot-assisted —Small cuts are made in the belly. Robotic arms control tools through these cuts. The arms let the doctor do very fine movements in small spaces. It may help to spare nerves and other healthy tissue in the area.
  • Nerve-sparing —There are 2 nerve bundles that control erection. The doctor may be able to leave them if cancer has not grown into or near them. Erection may still be possible if only 1 bundle is removed.

This surgery does have a risk of causing problems with urine control or erection. Some may be temporary problems. Others may be permanent and need other treatment or care.


Cryosurgery is destruction of tissue through freezing. A needle is passed into the prostate. A freezing gas is released into prostate tissue.

It is most often used to treat cancer in early stages. It is not always the first treatment used. It may also be done if cancer comes back after it’s been treated.

Surgery for Advanced and Prostate Cancer That Has Spread

Transurethral Resection of the Prostate

Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) is a procedure to remove prostate tissue. A scope is placed through the tube that carries urine out of the body. Tools can be passed through the tube to remove prostate. The tissue may be destroyed with electric wire or laser. Removing some of the prostate can improve the flow of urine.


Testicles make hormones called androgens. Hormone-sensitive prostate caner will grow faster with this hormone. An orchiectomy is the removal of one or both of the testicles. It will cut the major source of androgens.


Prostate Cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/prostate-cancer. Updated October 16, 2018. Accessed January 6, 2020.

Cryotherapy for prostate cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/treating/cryosurgery.html. Updated March 11, 2016. Accessed January 6, 2020.

Surgery for prostate cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/treating/surgery.html. Updated March 11, 2016. Accessed January 6, 2020.

Treatment option overview. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/prostate/patient/prostate-treatment-pdq#section/_142. Updated October 12, 2018. Accessed January 6, 2020.

What is cryotherapy? Urology Care Foundation website. Available at: https://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/prostate-cancer/treatment/cryotherapy. Accessed January 6, 2020.

What is radical prostatectomy (surgery) for prostate cancer? Urology Care Foundation website. Available at: https://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/prostate-cancer/treatment/surgery. Accessed January 6, 2020.

Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Nicole Meregian, PA  Last Updated: 12/17/2019