Most men know that they should get regular prostate cancer screenings, but not everybody does. New technology means that a trip to the doctor’s office doesn’t have to be as scary.
September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, so it’s a good time to look at the facts and the new treatment options. Over a 5-year period, Onondaga County reported several thousand cases of prostate cancer, resulting in 250 deaths. Nationally, each year more than 200,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer and it’s the second leading cause among cancer deaths. Before, a man diagnosed with prostate cancer faced lengthy treatments coupled with a higher risk of rough and unpleasant side effects. Dr. Sean Collins, directs MedStar/Georgetown University Hospital’s prostate cyber-knife program, which can be more effective.
“To protect the bladder and the rectum they give the radiation a little bit each day, 5 days a week over 8 to 9 weeks. The Cyber Knife is unique because it tracks prostate motion and allows us to adjust so we can make the treatment margins a lot smaller. It also allows us to give higher doses of radiation over a shorter period of time. It’s usually 5 treatments over 1 to 2 weeks.”
Over the past 7 years, Dr. Collins says that the outcomes using the Cyber-Knife are equal to or better than using the traditional fractional radiation. The Cyber Knife also cuts the costs to the patient.
“The costs for five treatments is actually cheaper than doing the standard 40 to 45 treatments. So the cost is less to the person paying the bill, but the cost is also less to the patient, because they don’t have to travel every day for an hour, take an hour out of work, or maybe an hour at the end of the day when they’d rather be home spending time with their family than getting treated for prostate cancer.”
And as Dr. Collins says, a digital rectal exam is not as bad as it sounds. It’s worth the minimal discomfort to know that you don’t have cancer. Onondaga and Oswego counties offer free screenings to the uninsured. Upstate Medical University also has a prostate cancer program.