Advancements in Prostate Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment Give Providers and Patients New Tools
By Wellstar Urologist Dr. Justin Watson
Many men are reluctant to seek diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer because they fear the effects of treatment on their urinary and sexual function. Enter modern technology. MRI scans, PET scans and molecular testing of blood and tissue samples not only help physicians know how and where to treat, but also identify those who may not need any treatment.
Having a PSA blood test is usually the first step in detecting prostate cancer. Now, modern MRI scans can help the urologist target abnormal areas for biopsy, like how a GPS pinpoints a destination. With this technique, patients can be more confident that the biopsy samples accurately represent their condition. In fact, this confidence has allowed men with slow-growing forms of prostate cancer to observe their condition rather than immediately pursue treatment. Since the formation of cancer cells all starts with changes in a cell’s genetic material, specialized testing of the biopsy sample can help further define the behavior of an individual’s prostate cancer.
When treatment for prostate cancer is needed, the latest methods bring next-level precision to protect the delicate nerves and muscles surrounding the prostate. Now in its second decade as a standard treatment for prostate cancer, robotic prostate removal continues to break barriers with new instrumentation, refined techniques and artificial intelligence. Not only do these advancements speed up recovery, but they also facilitate less traumatic access to spaces that were previously very difficult to reach. Similarly, the latest radiation therapy techniques allow delivery of a thin beam to the prostate.
For more aggressive forms of prostate cancer, the latest type of PET scan can identify the cancer in other locations. First, a radiotracer (slightly radioactive substance) is injected into a vein, and it binds to prostate cancer cells, wherever they may be hiding. Then the resulting X-ray images are superimposed onto a CT scan to highlight any areas of suspicion. We can now attach medications to this radiotracer to attack and kill remote prostate cancer cells like a guided missile.
With these recent advancements in technology, the management of prostate cancer continues to be more effective and gentler for the modern man. One can only imagine what’s on the horizon.