New, Safer prostate Treatment
Men with a diagnosis of prostate cancer are often frustrated by an array of unsatisfactory treatment options that may leave them either impotent or incontinent. Now, a less-known treatment is offering many men with prostate cancer an alternative therapy that destroys the tumor but not the prostate -- and so for many patients this means a future free of impotence or incontinence. The technique is called cryoablation, a sort of male lumpectomy that removes the tumor, leaving the prostate gland and its normal functioning in place.
DETAILS ON CRYOBATION
The pioneer of this technique is radiologist Gary Onik, MD, director of the Florida Hospital/Celebration Health's prostate cancer research program. He performed his first prostate cancer cryoablation surgery about 15 years ago, but it has been only in the last year or so that the technique has been receiving national attention, through journal articles and meeting presentations. The technique uses an exceedingly cold gas to freeze a portion of the prostate and some surrounding tissue, including one of the prostate nerves, to destroy the targeted tissue. In an ongoing study of 60 cryoablation patients, one year later 95% had stable prostate specific antigen tests and no evidence of cancer... 78% remained potent... and none reported incontinence. I spoke with Dr. Onik about this surgery and what it offers prostate cancer patients.
IS CRYOABLATION FOR YOU?
According to Dr. Onik, 75% of all patients are candidates for this type of surgery. The key is that the cancer be mostly contained in one-half the gland. It is available to men with a single cancer but also those who have a "single index" cancer, a small tumor elsewhere in the prostate in addition to the primary one. If the smaller tumor eventually gains in size, Dr. Onik explains that the patient can have a later cryoablation to treat it as well. Even an advanced cancer can respond to cryosurgery, he says, so long as it has not spread beyond the prostate gland. Doctors can tailor the procedure to destroy as much or little tissue as the patient needs. Patients also can have this surgery after radiation if radiation has failed. Dr. Onik says that cryoablation surgery is now starting to be available in other areas around the country. For anyone with a diagnosis of prostate cancer, he advises getting a thorough understanding of the extent of the disease and then looking at all the options, including, of course, cryoablation surgery. If cryoablation is the right course, find a doctor/hospital that is experienced with this procedure. While use of it is expanding, you still want to go where they have the most experience.