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Taking aim at prostate cancer.

New research confirms that brachytherapy, an advanced cancer treatment where radioactive seeds are placed in or near the tumor, is an effective treatment for prostate cancer. The study shows that 96 percent of the participants survived the disease a decade after treatment.

Brachytherapy, or "seed" therapy, delivers a high dose of radiation to tumor cells while reducing radiation exposure to surrounding healthy tissue. The radiation contained in each implanted seed gradually diminishes over time, and the total amount of radiation delivered to the prostate is less than that delivered through other radiation treatments.

During the procedure, doctors use hollow needles to permanently implant between 80 and 120 seeds containing iodine or palladium into the prostate. A mapping template serves as a guide for needle placement to as sure that each seed is placed exactly where intended. Patients typically return to normal activities within one or two days with minimal restrictions. The total procedure generally lasts less than two hours. Side effects include a risk of impotence and incontinence, frequent urination and, occasionally, blood in the urine.

Other Prostate Cancer Therapies

Surgery--Also called radical prostatectomy, this procedure involves removal of the entire prostate gland and, in some cases, some of the surrounding tissue. The procedure typically requires a hospital stay of two to five days. The most common complications are impotence and incontinence.

External Beam Radiation--Utilizes radiation to stop the growth of cancer cells. Multiple beams of radiation are delivered through normal tissue to the site of the cancer. The therapy has demonstrated a fairly high cure rate in early cancers and the risk of impotence and incontinence is lower than that associated with surgery. Daffy visits to the hospital are required for about two months. Risks include radiation damage to healthy tissue, fatigue, nausea, and rectal irritation or bleeding.

Hormone Therapy--The goal of hormone therapy is to lower the level of the male hormones (androgens), as well as to promote shrinking of the prostate gland, and a slowdown in the growth of the tumor. The approach may relieve disease symptoms and make the gland more receptive to other treatments. Disadvantages include impotence, infertility, cardiovascular problems, and nausea.

Cryosurgery--A form of therapy that freezes and destroys prostate tumors. While the patient is anesthetized (local or general), the doctor uses ultrasound guidance to insert six to eight slender probes through the skin into the prostate gland. The procedure takes about two hours. Many patients resume normal activity in less than a week. Most patients will be impotent if the entire prostate is frozen.

"Watchful Waiting"--Involves regular and careful observation of the prostate gland. This conservative course of action is typically used for slow-growing tumors or for the oldest patients.

Experimental Drug Therapy--Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles say that raloxifene, a prescription drug used for osteoporosis, may help fight prostate cancer. In a preliminary study, some of the patients taking a daily dose of raloxifene showed clinical evidence of a slowing or stopping of the growth of their prostate cancer.
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Title Annotation:MEDICAL UPDATE: Cutting-edge news from a source you can trust.
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2006
Words:501
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