Published: June 19, 2008
Updated: Sept. 14, 2010
There are a lot of options for treating prostate cancer. Robert Bryant of Clayton discovered this when he was diagnosed at age 73. He explored many options, but his minimally invasive choice allowed him to be, in his words, a player in the rest of his life instead of an onlooker.
At Duke, Bryant underwent focal cryotherapy, a treatment that, according to Duke urologic oncologist Thomas Polascik, MD, is rapidly becoming an option for men with small, less aggressive tumors that are localized to a single region of the gland who wish to preserve sexual function and urinary continence.
The treatment involves injecting the diseased prostate tissue -- but not the surrounding healthy tissue -- with freezing gas, under the guidance of advanced ultrasound imaging.
The procedure has been described as the “male lumpectomy” in that it is similar to the breast cancer treatment of removing only the tumor rather than the entire breast.
Because the entire prostate is not treated with focal cryosurgery, there remains the possibility of developing a cancer in the untreated portion of the prostate. But the results have been encouraging. On the treated side of the prostate the chance of treatment failure has been about 4 percent. On the untreated side, short-term studies show recurrence between 4 and 8 percent. “But as men live longer, the risk increases, so true recurrence on the untreated side is probably about 10 to 20 percent,” says Polascik.
But for many men, like Bryant, that risk may be outweighed by the benefits. “If I had the option to preserve a good portion of my functioning, that sounded like the best way,” he said.
Because the procedure is minimally-invasive, recovery can be very quick. “I never took a pain pill,” says Bryant.