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New Technique to Transform Early Prostate Cancer Treatment
A new study funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), involving 41 patients, is being heralded as a success for prostate cancer sufferers.

The new procedure, administered for early diagnosed cancer patients is reported to have less side-effects than the present treatment. Using ultrasound is producing a favourable outcome of less incontinence and impotence problems.

Erectile dysfunction is quite a common issue post treatment for prostate cancer and can be helped with Viagra or Cialis medication. Around 37,000 men a year present with prostate cancer in the UK, which goes on to be fatal for up to 10,000 of them.

Presently the usual treatment of the whole of the prostate gland via surgery or radiotherapy, can damage the immediate healthy tissues adjacent to the affected area, making more problems evolve. University College Hospital doctors in London have started using a ‘high-intensity focused ultrasound’ device (HIFU) in their research. It involves placing a probe close to the prostate, which emits sound waves, that target the cancerous cells and heats them to 80C. This procedure has been found to cause a nominal amount of damage in order to protect delicate nerves and muscles.

Dr Hashim Ahmed a well published urological surgeon and head of the HIFU research said, "We've shown in this study that focal therapy - by targeting the individual areas of cancer - can avoid the collateral damage. We've shown that nine in 10 men had no impotence and none of the men in the study had incontinence of urine."

Although the results are extremely encouraging, further studies with a larger patient base are needed, to give a true reflection of the findings. He went on to say "This could offer a transformation of the way we treat prostate cancer. It could offer a cost-effective treatment for the NHS, and offer men with early prostate cancer an opportunity to treat their disease, but with very few side-effects."

One of the patients whom volunteered for the treatment two years ago, a Mr Robert Page 72 years, said "The outcome was very good," he said. "I was very pleased with the treatment and very happy with the lack of side-effects, particularly when I contrast that with what might have been the case if I'd had one of the other, alternative, treatments."

Professor Gillies McKenna is the director of the Gray Institute for Radiation Oncology and Biology in Oxford. He said "If these promising results can be confirmed in a randomised controlled trial, focal therapy could soon become a reasonable treatment choice for prostate cancer alongside other proven effective therapies."

Mr Owen Sharp, chief executive for the Prostate Cancer Trust, provided a statement, "We welcome the development of any prostate-cancer treatment which limits the possibility of damaging side-effects, such as incontinence and impotence. These early results certainly indicate that focal HIFU has the potential to achieve this in the future. "However, we need to remember that this treatment was given to fewer than 50 men, without follow-up over a sustained period of time. We look forward to the results of further trials, which we hope will provide a clearer idea of whether this treatment can control cancer in the long term whilst ridding men of the fear that treating their cancer might mean losing their quality of life." The Pelican Cancer Foundation, MRC and St Peter’s Trust sponsored the research for the HIFU procedure.

Written by Graham Hall


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