Cryoablation and Other Cutting Edge Prostate Cancer Treatments
We’re lucky to live in a time of ever-evolving technological breakthroughs.
Recently, researchers at the National Cancer Institute have found game-changing advances in the way we treat, diagnose, and live with prostate cancer. That means more accurate diagnoses, and reassurance that you’re getting the care you need.
Here’s a few of the most cutting edge treatments you should know about.
Cryoablation involves freezing the prostate gland to destroy cancerous cells.
It’s usually done while the patient is under anesthesia, either completely anesthetized or put under spinal (localized) anesthesia. Preparation for cryoablation may require going through a period of fasting, or cleansing of the bowels through an enema.
Prior to the freezing, a catheter, designed to keep the urethra warm, is inserted into the patient’s urethra. This, along with temperature probes placed around the rectal wall, lowers the risk of urinary incontinence in patients.
A cryo probe, similar to an ultrasound probe, is inserted into the rectum. This maps the size of the prostate and allows surgeons to control the size and shape of the ice used to freeze the gland.
Long, thin needles used to produce ice balls of extreme sub-zero temperatures are then placed within the prostate. These needles are constantly guided by the ultrasound imaging. Argon gas is then used to freeze the tissue.
A relatively new procedure, cryoablation boasts results comparable to radiation therapy. It is often used for patients who are unable to have surgical removal of the prostate gland, and provides “focal therapy” for small, or early stage, tumors.
This procedure is rarely used as a first treatment. Instead, it is used as a treatment for men whose cancer has returned. This is called “salvage therapy.”
This form of treatment is not ideal for those with large prostate glands, or for more advanced tumors.
One benefit of cryoablation is that it typically involves less recovery time. Some people may even be treated as outpatients, meaning they’ll be allowed to go home the same day as the procedure.
Although the results of cryoablation are comparable to radiation, very little is known about its long-term effectiveness, and it doesn’t come without its downsides. Side effects are numerous, and can include: blood in urine, urinary incontinence, and erectile disfunction.
This procedure will also require the same medical follow-ups as other treatments, which is especially important, as cryoablation leaves behind small traces of cancer tissues that must be monitored for growth.
Sometimes known as Taxotere or Docefrez, the chemotherapy drug Docetaxel is used to treat lung, prostate, breast, stomach, head, and neck cancers.
It works by targeting and attacking microtubules, which are responsible for cell division. Because cancer cells divide quickly, they are quickly killed by the Docetaxel.
The drug is typically given intravenously, over the course of an hour. Treatments are administered either every week or every three weeks, depending on the type of cancer and its responsiveness to the drug.
The FDA-approved Docetaxel has been on the market since 1996, and has been used to treat cancer for about a decade. But recent research has increased the effectiveness of the drug.
Recent findings of the National Cancer Institute’s phase III E3805 study show that Docetaxel is extremely effective when combined with androgen deprivation therapy (ADT).
ADT is the process of reducing the androgen hormones (such as testosterone) that prostate cancer needs to grow. For hormone-sensitive prostate cancer, ADT is typically the first treatment prescribed.
Chemotherapy is usually given if the cancer continues does not respond to the androgen deprivation therapy and continues to progress. However, the National Cancer Institute has found that combining the two treatments can extend the lifespan of men diagnosed with prostate cancer – by more than 13 months.
This breakthrough is huge, as it also means that docetaxel works effectively in earlier stages of disease progression.
Research is still being conducted regarding the toxicity of combining the two treatments.
Because docetaxel is a chemotherapy drug it is rather side-effect-heavy, and the optimal dose is still unconfirmed. Reactions to the drug include nausea, vomiting, hair loss, lower red blood cell counts, and increase in liver enzymes, and hair loss. Fluid retention is also an issue that needs to be monitored, as it can collect in a patient’s chest, causing swelling and difficulty breathing.
This drug also reacts with certain foods and cannot be used by those with reduced liver function, as the liver is used to flush out traces of the drug. It is unknown how these side effects or the toxicity of the chemotherapy will interact with common forms of androgen deprivation therapy.
Prostate Specific Antigen Test
PSA, or prostate specific antigen, is a protein found in the prostate. An antigen is a toxin that induces the production of blood proteins called antibodies. While low levels of PSA are commonly found in the bloodstream, higher levels can indicate the presence of cancer.
The PSA test was designed to detect the possibility of cancer by measuring these levels; however, it is a notoriously inaccurate and hotly-debated test, because elevated PSAs do not always indicate the presence of cancer.
Ethnicity, age, presence of infection, and prostate volume can all elevate the prostate specific antigens in men, and can lead to scary false positives.
With so much potential for inaccuracy, it may seem strange that doctors still rely on the PSA test to detect the presence of prostate cancer. However, PSA levels – along with digital rectal exams and biopsies – have been instrumental in monitoring and detecting the presences of prostate cancer. There is a lot of concern in the medical community that moving away from PSA tests will lead to an increase in the amount of men diagnosed with advanced-stage prostate cancer.
New breakthroughs in reading and deciphering the PSA test help eliminate false positives and provide a more accurate detection of cancer, alleviating the worry of advanced-stage diagnosis.
Doctors now closely monitor PSA levels, looking at the rate of increase of prostate specific antigens. If PSA levels rise dramatically in a short span of time, the can provide a more accurate indicator of the presence of prostate cancer than a steady high PSA score.
If you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer, you may feel overwhelmed by your treatment options. In order to figure out which treatment is best for you, speak to your doctor.
Your full medical history, stage of cancer, and personal preferences will all be taken into consideration to find the best treatment possible for you. The important thing to know is that you have options. You also have options when it comes to your life insurance program, contact us today to find out which options are available for you!