A common treatment for prostate cancer that hasn’t yet spread to other organs is a radical prostatectomy, a procedure that involves removing the entire prostate and some of the surrounding tissue in order to make sure the cancer doesn’t spread any further. The surgery, of course, is also rife with various risks, such as infection, as well as side effects, including erectile dysfunction and incontinence. And physicians have been working to soften the blow of these undesirable side effects: for example, a surgical team in Australia has been perfecting a nerve grafting method and seen some promising results.
Others are taking a different approach, by looking into alternative methods that can replace prostate removal. A team at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston led by prostate cancer treatment pioneer Eric Walser has shown that removing prostate tumors through specified laser technology is just as effective as the complete removal of the prostate, minus the sexual and urinary dysfunction in the aftermath.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Vascular and Interventional Radiology, followed 120 men with low-to-intermediate-risk prostate cancer who were treated with a technique known as focal laser ablation (FLA). FLA is an outpatient procedure that pinpoints and removes solely cancerous prostate tissue with minimal recovery time and pain while keeping both urinary and erectile functions intact.
Interestingly enough, FLA also works with MRI imaging, similar to the approach we use here at Ezra. “FLA offers men more peace of mind than active surveillance or ‘watchful waiting,’ the traditional alternative to radical treatment,” said Walser. “FLA pairs MRI imaging to identify cancer-suspicious areas in the prostate and advanced laser technology to remove it completely, with virtually no risk of impotence or incontinence.”
The study also looked at a small group who underwent a more aggressive form of treatment with FLA; the research team found evidence of cancer in only 6 percent of those patients the next year. The only side effect these individuals saw was a significant lower sperm count.
According to Walser, other studies have shown that between 15 and 30 percent of patients will see a recurrence of their cancer between 5 and 10 years of having a radical prostatectomy. “Although FLA doesn’t yet have such long-term data,” Walser said, “this technique may ultimately provide similar cancer control while better preserving quality of life.”
And that’s the goal: to keep patients safe, comfortable, and healthy.