Source: By medical reporter Sophie Scott – ABC
There is now a low-risk and relatively painless treatment available for the thousands of Australian men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Each day more than 30 Australian men are told they have prostate cancer and every three hours, one man will die from the illness.
For most patients, the options are surgery, radiation treatment or simply watching to see whether the tumour gets bigger.
But now, those men with low-risk prostate cancer have another option, called focal therapy.
It is an umbrella term for a number of non-invasive techniques for killing small tumours inside the prostate.
Some focal therapies use either heat or cold to destroy tumours and another option, called the Nanoknife, uses electrical currents to kill the tumours.
Doctors compare the procedure to a lumpectomy for breast cancer patients.
It can destroy specific areas of cancer, while preserving normal prostate tissue and surrounding organs.
Professor Phillip Stricker from Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital is trialling focal therapy using the Nanoknife for some of his patients.
Small wires are inserted into the tumour then electricity is directed across the cancer.
‘Fairly straight forward’
One of the first patients to have the treatment is Kris Stolzenheim, from Camden in New South Wales.
Mr Stolzenheim was diagnosed with low grade prostate cancer 18 months ago. He researched his options and discovered focal therapy.
He says he is not worried that it is a new procedure.
“I like the technological side of it. It’s fairly straight forward and simple,” he said.
“It takes a lot less time, recovery’s quite immediate, and if it works it’s the way of the future I believe.”
He wanted to get rid of the cancer, but minimise his recovery time.
Mr Stolzenheim says he had the procedure, which took about two hours, and was back home that afternoon.
“The only trouble, I had a cold three days afterwards and that’s been much worse than the operation,” he said.
“There was no pain really to talk about afterwards and no side effects afterwards either. Everything seems to be quite normal.”
But Professor Mark Frydenberg from Monash University says the use of focal therapy is very much still at the trial stage.
“What’s crucial is the accuracy of the biopsy in detecting the cancer,” he said.
“Through the MRI, you need a good map of the prostate. The concern is that you will end up treating disease that is not the main area of cancer, as MRIs are good but not perfect,” he said.
At the moment, focal therapy is only being done by a handful of specialists.
But Professor Stricker thinks that will change.
“Once a majority of urologists and professionals decide that it’s a reasonable option in a group of people then I think there’ll be lobbying to Medicare to have an item number for this type of treatment,” he said.