Prostate cancer is among the most common forms of cancer among men, second only to skin cancer. This year will see an estimated 191,930 new cases of prostate cancer and about 33,000 deaths from it, according to the American Cancer Society. But while it can be fatal, prostate cancer is very treatable and many who have it will survive the diagnosis. And with treatments improving over time, more will be able to survive. One treatment that might help in the early stages is focal therapy.
If you’re dealing with prostate cancer, Dr. Mark Kelly has decades of expertise to help you understand your diagnosis and find the best treatment.
Understanding early-stage prostate cancer
When we refer to the stages of cancer, we’re generally talking about where the cancer is (the primary tumor) located and how much it has spread in that area or to other areas around it. Prostate cancer is usually seen in 1 of 4 stages. The early stages (within the first two) where the tumor is slow-moving and the growth cannot be felt is where treatments like focal therapy can be useful.
How focal therapy works
Focal therapy works for localized prostate cancer, meaning the tumor is only on the prostate gland and hasn’t metastasized (spread) to other areas. The first type of therapy is simply waiting to see if anything develops, as in the early stages very little may happen. You do periodic checks to see if anything develops, which as men age may become more likely. In the case of multiple tumors, focal therapy targets what is known as the index lesion, which is the largest tumor and is often most responsible for the damage and spread of the cancer. When signs of the tumor spreading become clear, focal therapy is designed to minimize damage to the prostate area and target the tumor while it is much easier to manage.
The types of focal therapy
The multiple types of focal ablation used in tumor treatment are minimally invasive and employ extreme temperatures to remove tumors. Ablation treatments for focal therapy include:
- Cryotherapy: uses cold gases to freeze cancerous tumors
- HIFU (high intensity focused ultrasound: uses ultrasound to heat up and destroy tumors
- Photodynamic therapy: uses a drug that absorbs light rays directed at the tumor, thus producing a type of oxygen that kills the cancer.
- Laser ablation: uses a beam of concentrated light that burns away the tumor
After evaluation using an MRI, the procedures begin with patients being anesthetized. Depending on the type of focal therapy treatment chosen, the doctor either inserts a needle into the perineum (the space between the anus and genitals) or places a probe in the rectum. The process usually takes about two and a half hours. Staying in the hospital for observation for up to three days is typical, and you will probably use a catheter for that time.
The combination of active checking on the status of the tumor and eliminating it with minimal surgery can help avoid the cancer reaching later stages where radiation treatments may be necessary. This also leads to lower side effects.
So, if you’re in the early stages of prostate cancer or you need to evaluate your risks, make an appointment with Dr. Kelly today.