Brachytherapy, a minimally invasive treatment for prostate cancer, has been implemented as part of Sampson Regional Medical Center’s surgical services and cancer treatment programs. It is an advanced form of radiation therapy used to treat cancers by killing cancer cells and shrinking tumors.
Dr. Robert W. Reagan, Jr., MD, of Sampson Urology Associates, performed the procedure in collaboration with Dr. Brian Cook, radiation oncologist for Sampson Regional Cancer Center. It was the first in a recently introduced program at the local medical facility, an addition of services in Sampson both said will be very beneficial to those in the surrounding area.
“It’s huge,” said Reagan. “The brachytherapy is just another tool in the arsenal. Brachytherapy is a good option for many men. It’s less invasive and a good treatment for low-grade forms of the disease.”
Cook said it is another alternative for those seeking treatment.
“It’s good to have multiple options for treatment of prostate cancer,” said Cook. “Patients can choose among many options and the seed-implant procedure is one of them.”
Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men. The American Cancer Society estimates more than 200,000 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2010, and over 30,000 deaths will occur as a result. The affliction is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, behind only lung cancer.
Reagan said he does not see prostate cancer as being any more prevalent in Sampson than it is in other areas, but said brachytherapy provides effective treatment to those diagnosed.
“Prostate cancer is a common disease,” said Reagan, who opened Sampson Urology Associates in Clinton in 2009. “One in five men will develop the cancer.”
Brachytherapy differs from external beam therapy in that it involves placing radioactive material directly inside of, or next to, a tumor. Brachytherapy is an internal radiation therapy, so the physician is able to use a higher total dose of radiation to treat a smaller area than with external radiation treatment. By delivering radiation to a smaller area, less damage and radiation exposure occurs to the tissues and organs around the cancerous area.
Radiation therapy utilizes X-rays, electrons and gamma rays to destroy tumors. Such therapies are used on most types of cancers, including not only prostate cancer, but lung and skin cancer and brain tumors. While side affects can be adverse with forms of radiation treatment, with brachytherapy, patients are often able to tolerate the minimally invasive procedure well and resume normal daily activities sooner.
“This offers that extra modality and convenience for the patient,” said Cook. “It is a one-day treatment as opposed to eight weeks of radiation.”
The brachytherapy operation last month has been the only such procedure so far, but Cook said there are at least a “half dozen” in line to be performed here.
“We have several in the works,” he said.
The brachytherapy procedure is a two-part process.
The first part is a 30-minute procedure in which the prostate is merely measured in 5 millimeter increments. The second part, the main portion, takes about an hour to an hour and a half. During that time, “radioactive seeds are implanted into the prostate,” said Reagan.
While it’s taken some time to get the operation up and running in Sampson County, with the state having to check out the new equipment and the entire process, now that it is here its benefits will be felt in Sampson and the surrounding area well into the future, said Reagan, who has served in the capacity of Duke University Consulting Professor of Urology, with offices in Chapel Hill, Raleigh and Durham.
Having already performed well over 100 brachytherapy procedures in the last five years alone to treat patients with prostate cancer, Reagan attested that the procedure is a big plus to those seeking treatment locally.
“As you do these procedures, you get to know what works best for patients and you tweak it a bit,” Reagan said. “They’ve being doing (brachytherapy) for 20 years and it’s withstood the test of time. Some medical procedures fall by the wayside, but this has stood the test of time. Men have done very well. It’s a treatment that will be a continuing option for these men.”
The prospect of having such high-tech treatment close to home is yet another advantage, said Cook.
“Previously, patients would have to travel out of town for this type of procedure,” he said.
“Having it here means they don’t have to travel out of the county for treatment,” added Reagan. “It makes this a very good option for those men.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 121, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.