Melbourne, June 26 : Medics at Brisbane's Princess Alexandra Hospital have given fresh hope to prostate cancer patients, by developing a new treatment that could reduce painful side effects and help maintain sexual function.
The alternative form of therapy, dubbed Image Guided Radiotherapy (IGRT), has been available at the Princess Alexandra (PA) Hospital since the opening of new a linear accelerator machine last December.
The IGRT treatment targets tumours with pinpoint accuracy without damaging the surrounding blood vessels vital for sexual activity or injuring the bladder and rectum.
Traditional radiation therapy affects tissues and blood vessels surrounding the prostate gland, leaving men diagnosed with the disease with reduced sexual function.
The new technology, however, uses 3D imaging to show soft tissue anatomy and identify radiation treatment.
Director of radiation oncology services at the hospital, Professor Bryan Burmeister, said it was hoped a trial soon to be under way will lead to shorter treatment times, a reduction in lengthy hospital waiting lists and a better quality of life for patients.
"Across the world, we are now seeing a trend to try and reduce waiting lists by shortening the overall course of radiation treatment," the Age.com.au quoted him, as saying.
"We are doing this already in breast cancer and we want to do this in prostate cancer as well."
But he said it could only be done if the side effects of the treatment were reduced or maintained at existing levels over the shorter course of the radiation.
Prof Burmeister said the trial would compare the usual seven weeks of conventional radiation treatment to four weeks of more intense radiation therapy using the IGRT.
"If that trial is successful, in other words if the outcomes are the same, patients with prostate cancer will routinely be treated with four weeks of treatment, rather than seven weeks of treatment and that will make a huge impact on waiting lists because prostate cancer is such a common disease," he said.
Evert Klaasen, one of the first patients to receive the new treatment in Brisbane, said he felt comfortable knowing the machine was targeting the exact area.
"The only side effects that I've got is I have to go to the toilet more often, especially of a night-time," Klaasen said.