The standard treatment for prostate cancer is surgery and radiation therapy.
But complications can arise when the organs surrounding the prostate are exposed to radiation.
For example, the rectum sits right behind the prostate and has the highest risk for exposure.
But thanks to a new revolutionary procedure called SpaceOAR, radiation therapy side-effects can now be prevented by up to 75%.
Radiation oncologist Dr. Alex Hsi explains about the up-side of this new prostate cancer treatment.
Most of us know someone who has been affected by prostate cancer, and I know it’s relatively common. How common is this diagnosis and what is the general prognosis?
Dr. Alex Hsi: Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer for men in America.
The American Cancer Society estimates that one in nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime.
However, if caught early, the five-year survival rate is nearly 100 percent.
So what are the standard treatments; is prostate cancer treated like most cancers?
Dr. Hsi: External beam radiation therapy and brachytherapy are two popular treatment options for prostate cancer, but radiation can cause damage to surrounding organs like the rectum, which is very close in proximity to the prostate, is that correct? What are the consequences?
Prostate brachytherapy is a treatment for prostate cancer that involves placing radioactive seeds in, or near tumors in the prostate, which work alone or in combination with external beam radiation.
Until recently, there was nothing between the prostate and the rectum to protect the rectal tissue from the powerful radiation beams, which can potentially lead to negative side effects like bleeding, burning and pain in the area.
Wow, so you may be treating the prostate cancer, but at a cost to some of your other vital organs…is there a safeguard?
Dr. Hsi: There is a revolutionary procedure available called SpaceOAR, which helps to prevent radiation therapy side effects by up to 75 percent.
SpaceOAR is a water-based gel that is placed between the prostate and the rectum to push the two organs away from each other, creating a barrier between the two and reducing the concentrated radiation dose to the rectum.
The ultrasound-guided injections use two liquids that harden into a solid gel once in place.
Although the gel stays present in the body for six months before being safely reabsorbed, most patients don’t notice any side effects.
SpaceOAR was approved by the FDA in 2015 following extensive clinical trials that I led with a team of researchers.
So where can prostate cancer patients find this SpaceOAR treatment, where is it available?
Dr. Hsi: Halvorson Cancer Center is a partnership of SCCA and EvergreenHealth, and I am proud to work among such a wonderful group of colleagues on the radiation oncology care team.
We have access to state-of-the-art radiation therapy technologies, as well as the ability to participate in one-of-a-kind research and clinical trials.
Our top priority when treating patients with cancer is to serve as an expert partner who will listen to their individual needs, and help guide them to the best care plan.
In addition to radiation oncology, the Halvorson Cancer Center provides comprehensive cancer care under one roof, with central registration coordinating all appointments for treatment, labs and diagnostic testing.
Dr. Alex Hsi is a board-certified radiation oncologist with more than 17 years of experience caring for people with cancer. He specializes in prostate cancer, prostate seed brachytherapy, lung cancer, stereotactic radiation therapy and photodynamic therapy.