Prostate cancer treatment offers alternative to radiation and surgery

November 07, 2006
When 72-year-old Wolfgang Strahl was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he had a decision to make about what type of treatment to pursue.

His cancer was localized enough that he had a number of options, including radiation therapy, radioactive seed implants, or surgery to remove the prostate gland. But he chose instead to try a relatively new type of therapy called cryosurgery.

Cryosurgery involves freezing and thawing the tissue to kill the prostate cancer. The surgeon uses ultrasound to guide the cryoprobe and monitor the freezing of the cells, thereby limiting damage to nearby healthy tissue.

Urologist Victor Abraham, MD, has been performing the surgery at New Hanover Regional Medical Center for two years. He said cryosurgery is a good option for some men.

“Cryosurgery is for the patient who needs or wants to avoid surgery, or for someone who has already had radiation or wants to avoid radiation,” Dr. Abraham said.

Because it is less invasive than surgery, there is less blood loss, a shorter hospital stay, and a shorter recovery period. Mr. Strahl said he was home the same day and the discomfort didn’t last long.

“I was able to move around very well within a few days,” said Mr. Strahl. “I was very happy with it.”

Although Mr. Strahl had a range of options for treatment, cryotherapy’s biggest advantage may be that it can be used when there are few alternatives. It can be used for patients who are not good candidates for conventional surgery because of their age or other medical conditions. It can also be used for patients whose cancer came back after undergoing radiation therapy or having radioactive seeds implanted.

Like all options, there are pros and cons men with prostate cancer should weigh and discuss with their doctors. Rates of erectile dysfunction tend to be higher with cryosurgery than other treatments and could be a deterrent from pursuing that therapy.

Long-term data on the effectiveness of the treatment looks promising, however.
"Data on outcomes continues to be collected and appears promising beyond 15 years," said Dr. Abraham. “It’s a leading technology.”
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