New prostate treatment to save sex life
Hospital first in Ireland to offer gel procedure
A new treatment in Ireland for prostate cancer is helping to protect the sex lives of patients.
The new procedure significantly reduces the chances of radiation damage to tissue near the prostate gland.
Radiation damage in prostate cancer patients can result in the loss of sexual function, rectal bleeding, pain, and bowel motion and urinary problems.
The technology was introduced to Ireland at the Mater Private Hospital in Dublin, where so far 20 men have undergone the new cancer treatment.
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It is the first hospital in the State to introduce SpaceOAR hydrogel technology which inserts a soft, protective gel that increases the space between the prostate and rectum to reduce radiation exposure to healthy tissue during radiotherapy.
Professor Michelle McNicholas, consultant radiologist at the hospital, is the first consultant qualified to use the new technology in the Republic of Ireland and she works alongside a multidisciplinary team of cancer and surgical specialists providing the new procedure to prostate cancer patients.
She said: "When caught early, prostate cancer can be fully treated, with radiotherapy being one of the most effective treatment options for patients.
"However, hyper-localised treatment can be challenging due to the proximity of the prostate to the rectum. Exposure to radiation can cause damage to healthy rectum tissue which can sometimes result in bowel, urinary and erectile dysfunction.
"With SpaceOAR, the risk of radiation exposure is significantly less, reducing the impact that treatment might have on patients' everyday lives and giving them the confidence that their long-term quality of life is protected."
In Ireland, 3,400 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year, making it the second most common cancer in men after skin cancer. The survival rate of prostate cancer is nine in 10, with 92pc men surviving five years or longer.
Doctors said prostate cancer patients who undergo radiation treatment can suffer from temporary and long-term side effects. These side effects are typically physical and psychological.
SpaceOAR hydrogel is a spacer designed to minimise the long-term urinary, sexual and bowel side effects.
By creating a space between the prostate and the rectum, it prevents radiation from reaching healthy tissue in the rectum and maximises the dose to the affected prostate gland.
The hydrogel solution is injected through a minimally invasive procedure which temporarily positions the rectal wall away from the prostate during radiotherapy treatment. The gel remains in place for three to six months, after which it is naturally absorbed by the patient's body.
"We can't provide projected numbers of patients for 2020 as yet, but it is receiving high levels of interest from patients," said a spokesperson.
SpaceOAR hydrogel has been implanted in over 50,000 patients worldwide. Its manufacturers said a three-year evaluation of results showed the treatment to be safe and effective - with patients displaying a significant reduction in rectal symptoms from radiation and in urinary symptoms after 15-37 months.
Men who were sexually potent at the time of diagnosis were also more likely to avoid loss of sexual function after radiotherapy when they received the SpaceOAR treatment.
Mary Houston, director of the Cancer Centre at the Mater Private Dublin, said: "For eligible patients, it can dramatically improve their quality of life post-treatment."
Prostate cancer cells may not grow at all or else grow slowly during a man's lifetime. Many men never develop problems or symptoms from their prostate cancer. In some, prostate cancer grows more quickly and needs treatment to prevent it spreading outside of the prostate gland. In most cases, prostate cancer can be cured or kept under control.