Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer and the second most common cause of cancer death for men.
About 230,000 men are diagnosed with the disease each year, and about 30,000 die from it. Treatment options for patients largely depend on how soon it is diagnosed.
For early stage disease, treatment without hospitalization includes two types of radiation therapy: external beam radiotherapy and radioactive seed implant therapy.
External beam radiotherapy uses a high-energy, linear accelerator to direct a beam of radiation precisely to a targeted treatment area. "This type of radiation therapy takes place over the course of nine weeks," said Radiation Oncologist Baruch Kahana, M.D., Marshfield Clinic Minocqua Center. "Patients on this regimen will have a treatment session five times a week during the nine-week period."
The intended goal of radiation therapy is to kill all the cancer cells while preserving adjacent tissue, said Dr. Kahana. "The linear accelerator creates three-dimensional shaping of the radiation dose in a way that makes it conform to the size, shape and location of the tumor."
Radioactive seed implant therapy, known medically as brachytherapy, uses permanent seed implants that stay radioactive for about a year.
"The procedure is performed on an outpatient basis, meaning no hospitalization is necessary," said Urologist Gary Bailey, M.D., Marshfield Clinic Minocqua and Park Falls Centers. "The patient is under general anesthesia, and the procedure takes about two hours. Some patients benefit from a short course of external beam radiation followed by implantation of the seeds to kill remaining cancer cells."
In addition to being a more targeted therapy that avoids radiation exposure to healthy cells, radioactive seed implant therapy offers important benefits for men.
"A patient can go home from the procedure without needing a catheter, a device used in other types of procedures to help reduce discomfort and prevent infection," said Dr. Bailey. "A patient also can return to restricted activity in one day (including driving a car) and unrestricted activity in one week. Statistics show it is the procedure least likely to interfere with sexual function and is also the least expensive treatment option for most men."
Early diagnosis of prostate cancer improves the chances for a successful treatment outcome no matter the treatment method used. Screening for prostate cancer is recommended at age 40 for most men.