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New treatment for prostate cancer

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Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men. Sometimes treatment can be aggressive and that could result in long-term side effects. A new technique being used at Munson Medical Center is aiming to change that.

"For many men it can be an early stage cancer and sometimes we don't have to treat it. When we do treat it, it can be aggressive therapies and those can have side effects," says Douglas Brown, radiation oncologist with Cowell Family Cancer Center in Traverse City.

The new procedure called the SpaceOAR Hydrogel System came to Munson just six months ago.

"This is a real game changer, I think. It allows them to have a very high cure rate for their prostate cancer," says Brown.

OAR stands for 'organs at risk' since a patient's prostate gland is within a couple millimeters of the rectal wall and is considered to be the organ at risk during high dose radiation treatments.

"It's a very nice product we inject between the prostate and rectum. It essentially lowers the dose delivered to the rectum to less than 50%. Those patients benefit greatly from a toxicity standpoint and essentially none of these patients are developing long-term toxicity to their rectum," says Brown.

In order to kill off cancer cells in the prostate many patients require daily radiation treatments for five days a week. This needs to go on for about seven to eight weeks. So, once injected the specially formulated hydrogel becomes a protective barrier for long-term radiation effects on the rectum.

Martin Hayes from was diagnosed with prostate cancer in November. He's four weeks into the hydrogel treatments.

"I come in every day for five days a week and it takes less than 15 minutes. I can't say enough about it because it's awesome," says Hayes.

Hayes says he doesn't have any pain or side effects from the new hydrogel procedure and more importantly he feels fortunate.

"I guess I was lucky because they caught it before it got bad. My whole family had a history of the same thing," says Hayes.

Normally patients who receive the hydrogel wait about one week and then receive an MRI and CTscan to help their oncologist design the radiation treatment plans. Dr. Brown says the first couple of patients who received the hydrogel placement at Munson have had no significant radiation side effects.

For more information and a direct link to the Cowell Family Cancer Center click here.

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