Prostate cancer is the 2nd most common malignancy, second only to skin cancer. Unfortunately over 240,000 men are diagnosed with the disease every year, translating into 1 in every 6 men being affected by prostate cancer. Being diagnosed with cancer usually sets off a cascade of emotions, making patients feel confused, anxious, and at times even hopeless. All too often this is compounded by the challenges of determining a plan of action to treat ones disease.
Following diagnosis, patients are flooded by information and trying to make sense of the different treatment options can make even the most educated patient uncertain. While the internet contains many valuable resources, advertisements are often cloaked as educational tools, and patients should be cautious. While it is important to be educated regarding your disease, going to a search engine is not always the best first step. Talking with your physician and asking for recommended resources is a safer way to start your education.
Traditionally, patients had two main treatment options: surgery or radiation. Based on a patient’s goals, disease state, and health an appropriate treatment plan would be made. However, over the past decade the market place has become flooded with new technologies. Furthermore, patients are relying less on their physician to make the decision for them and are taking an active role. As newer therapies are introduced, patients are not always equipped to entangle marketing from medical facts.
Robotics is one such technology that has been quickly embraced and adapted to medical therapy. In the case of robotic prostate surgery, the robot builds on concrete oncologic principals. Early on it was shown that removal of the cancerous tissue, in this case the prostate, results in improved survival. Robotic surgery increases the magnification and visualization of the surgical field while allowing for precise and intentional movements. As a result, in the hands of a skilled surgeon, the prostate can be removed with greater attention resulting in improved functional outcomes, decreased blood loss, and a shorter recovery.
Dr. Samadi, Chairman, Department of Urology and Chief of Robotic Surgery at North Shore LIJ: Lenox Hill Hospital has developed the SMART-surgery technique. Research shows that at one year following surgery 85% of patients have erectile function and 96% are continent. More importantly less than 4% of patients have any evidence of disease.
Robotic radiosurgery or Cyberknife is a completely different adaptation of robotic technology. First the name radio surgery is misleading as this is not actually surgery but rather radiation therapy. In this treatment modality, a computer programed robot is employed to reposition the radiation beam in order to deliver targeted therapy. Originally the technology was developed for dynamic tissues, like the lung which are in constant movement.
While radiation therapy has been employed by oncologists for decades, the Cyberknife utilizes a dramatically different dosing regimen called hypofractionation. Traditionally, external radiation is given over approximately 40 treatments; with hypofractionation, patients receive less than half the traditional radiation dose in a significantly shorter period of time. Overall, radiation therapy for prostate cancer does not improve disease failure rates and causes significantly more urination function problems in most patients.
So take the time to speak with your physician about the options that will most benefit you in the long run. As prostate cancer is often referred to as “The Silent Killer.” Take the initiative and get screened, catch this disease early because in the end “the silent killer” doesn’t always have to kill.