Health Team

Right prostate cancer therapy can be a lifesaver

Posted April 17, 2012

— About 6,000 North Carolina men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year, and finding the right treatment can be a lifesaver for them.

Weight training is just part of 68-year-old Robert Harrison's nearly 10-year fight with prostate cancer. He admits that the fight would have been shorter if he had begun the recommended screening at age 50.

"Like a lot of men, I didn't go to the doctor. I took my wife, but I didn't go," Harrison said.

The stakes for prostate cancer screening are high. It's the second most-common type of cancer among American men and the second leading cause of cancer death in men, according to the American Cancer Society. One in six men will get the disease, and one in 36 will die from it.

Radiation treatments can be effective when the tumor is still within the prostate gland.

Advances in radiation therapy better target the prostate "and minimize the dose to the organs next to the prostate," said Dr. Ronald Chen, a radiation oncologist with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine.

Chen is the lead author of the first large study comparing the three different types of radiation therapy. The study is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Conformal radiation therapy is an older technology that has largely been replaced by intensity-modulated radiation therapy, which is the most commonly used treatment.

The third one is proton beam therapy. "It's proposed that it's an even better way of delivering radiation," Chen said.

The researchers found that IMRT had a higher cure rate and fewer side effects than the older CRT. However, IMRT and proton beam had similar cure rates.

"Proton therapy actually had a higher rate of rectal side effects," Chen said.

Part of the significance of the study lies in cost. While the IMRT and proton beam therapy had similar cancer survival rates, IMRT had fewer side effects and cost $4 million. Proton beam therapy costs $200 million.

Based on those findings, IMRT appears to be the best and most cost-effective treatment option for prostate cancer patients, Chen said.

Harrison stressed that all treatment begins with the first step: "Get treatment." 


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  • Tarheel7074 Apr 19, 2012

    I have metastatic prostate cancer and have been on lupron and casodex simultaneously for over 2 yrs. Together they have kept my cancer in check quite well, but not without side effects. For those with prostate cancer, I would suggest that you get several opinions regarding a course of treatment. I would never have had a radical prostatectomy if I had known what a significant reduction in quality of life was ahead. I am not saying that the procedure is not the right one for some, but it seems to be used too widely in this area of the U.S. as opposed to other less invasive treatments that have fewer quality of life side effects.

  • moppie Apr 19, 2012

    @ ohmygosh: We have actually discussed it in great detail. Considering that he has 4 children in their 20's, he has a whole life in front of him to look forward to. College graduations, marriages, grandbabies and retirement are all in his near future. To top it off, he has a very happy, satisfied girlfriend :) One thing it has encouraged us to do is to discover new ways and meanings of intimacy. I'm only 36, and making love is important, but there are so many ways for us to express that. We have become a stronger, closer couple as a result.

  • fishtat2 Apr 19, 2012

    I am more than willing to take all of the side affects rendered by the surgery,radiation and hormonal treatments. I have too much to live for to let them stop me. ohmygosh we accept the things we cannot change and make efforts to change what we can. A cancer patient MUST be proactive in their own healthcare.

  • ohmygosh Apr 18, 2012

    Moppie, what would he rather have?

  • moppie Apr 18, 2012

    My boyfriend was diagnosed with prostate cancer at 54 years old. It was only at my urging that he went to the dr. for the first time in 5 years when they discovered it through routine testing. They did a radical protatectomy with the DaVinci robotic surgery a few months later. Luckily it had not spread beyond the prostate and he is now cancer free. We are dealing with the incontinence and impotence, and like I keep telling him, I'd rather have you alive and cancer free than to not have you at all :)

  • fishtat2 Apr 18, 2012

    I have been battling Prostate Cancer since 99. Radical prostectomy and max radiation same year and both missed. I started on Lupron 2 years ago and it is now failing. Casodex was added as another daily hormone. I am told to expect it to be effective for 6 months to a year. What next??? Offer myself to clinical trials?

  • ohmygosh Apr 18, 2012

    Not being discussed is the fallout of various forms of surgery and treatment. Incontinence, impotence and more. Do you want to live with these?