Local News

New Surgical Technique Putting Freeze On Prostate Cancer

Posted April 29, 2003

— Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men. In 2003, experts predict that more than 200,000 men in the U.S. will be diagnosed with the cancer.

Surgeons have used intense heat to treat prostate disorders. Now they are also trying subzero temperatures to kill tumors.

The procedure has existed for a few years, but only recently have doctors warmed up to the results.

Surgeons at Duke University Medical Center have begun using cryotherapy for prostate cancer.

During the procedure, temperatures get down to minus 40° Fahrenheit.

Surgeons said to successfully get to the tumor site they use a grid and ultrasound as their guide.

"You want to make sure they're very accurately placed," said Duke surgeon Dr. Thomas Polascik.

Next, they freeze the prostate and ice forms, which kills the cancer.

Polascik said although the procedure is relatively new, he is pleased with the results so far.

Many of his patients are cancer-free 12 to 18 months after surgery.

Bill Gentry is one of them.

He said prostate cancer runs in his family. His three brothers had it.

"I'm the oldest so it was about my turn," the 79-year-old said.

He had the procedure 16 months ago and said he is doing great.

"So far it's been undetectable which is good," said Gentry.

"We hope that it lasts a lifetime," said Polascik.

Doctors said the procedure also works if the cancer comes back.

"This is one of the few forms of treatment where you can go back and retreat the prostate," said Polascik.

Gentry said he is not worried. If the cancer comes back, he said he will have the treatment again and get on with the rest of his life.

"If I'm going to live another 20 years or so I don't want to be bothered by cancer," Gentry said.

Surgeons said incontinence and impotency are possible side effects and are similar to other prostate cancer treatments.

Researchers are also continuing to study the results of cryotherapy.

Early studies show that 97 percent of cryosurgery patients were cancer-free after 12 months.

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