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Healthy health: new radiotherapy treatments for prostate cancer show promise

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A doctor who specializes in treating cancer patients says new studies of radiation therapy for prostate cancer show promise.

Patrick Fernandes is a radiation oncologist at the Carle Cancer Institute in Normal. In this edition of Sound Health, Fernandes said that early studies have shown that radiation treatment for prostate cancer can be done in a week instead of the current six to eight weeks.

“I think it’s something we might see in the not-so-distant future,” Fernandes said.

Carle Health

Patrick Fernandes

Fernandes said the radiation is much more precise than it was 10 to 20 years ago when radiation equipment was “primitive.” This makes the procedure more effective at removing cancer and limiting tissue damage, he said.

“Fortunately, over the past decade our machines have improved thanks to computer technology. We are now able to deliver much more precise, much more compact radiation, ”he said.

Fernandes said Normal’s cancer institute has the technology to perform the most frequent radiation treatments, but he warned he still had concerns that the studies had not yet resolved. “What we don’t know are the long-term side effects,” Fernandes said. “You also have to look at the quality of life. What will happen in five years, in 10 years with regard to toxicity. “

Myths about prostate cancer

Fernandes checked off a list of myths he said a lot of people have when it comes to prostate cancer. He said it was wrong to say that prostate cancer surgery would cause urine to leak or end a man’s sex life.

“It was true a decade or two ago. Nowadays, with superior surgical techniques, including robotic procedures, the incidence of urinary leakage is extremely low in expert hands, ”he said.

Fernandes added that it’s a myth that only older people get prostate cancer. He said patients as young as 45 are at risk, especially if they have a family history of cancer or are African American. People of color have a higher rate of prostate cancer. He said men should talk to their doctors before the age of 45 to find out if they should have an annual prostate specific antigen (PSA) test. He noted that the American Cancer Society has backed down from recommendations that waiting longer for a prostate exam would reduce false positives and potentially unnecessary and expensive treatments. Fernandes said too many cancers were missed in time.

Fernandes said very high PSA levels don’t necessarily mean a patient has prostate cancer. He said it could simply be an inflammation or infection of the prostate that could be treated with antibiotics.

Fernandes said treatment for prostate cancer, which is usually either surgery or radiation therapy, doesn’t have to start right away because it’s such a slow growing cancer. He said that in some cases, cancer can simply be watched to see if it grows.

Fernandes stressed that prostate cancer is not a death sentence. He noted that survival rates are over 90% and the rate is much better if detected early.

“Most cancer patients are doing well and living long and healthy lives,” he said.

Fernandes noted that nearly 200,000 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer last year. This makes it the second most common cancer behind skin cancer.