University Hospital Galway became the first public hospital in the country recently to use high dose-rate (HDR ) brachytherapy to treat patients with prostate cancer.
This was the culmination of an extensive training and education programme for the multi-disciplinary team from the radiation department, which included a radiation oncologist, physicists, nursing staff, radiation therapists, and anaesthetics.
Dr Cormac Small, a radiation oncologist at the hospital, outlined that until now HDR brachytherapy treatment was only available to patients at the Mater Private.
“We felt that this treatment modality should be made available to all patients and this was fully supported by hospital management and the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP ).
“A training and education programme on this new treatment was then undertaken by the designated staff. Part of this process involved site visits to the Mater Private as well as the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre in Belfast and Poitiers University Hospital in France. These centres very kindly allowed us to observe and learn from them. We envisage that UHG will lead a programme to roll out the prostate HDR service to the radiotherapy centres in Cork and Dublin.”
High dose-rate (HDR ) brachytherapy or temporary brachytherapy is a type of internal radiotherapy which involves inserting thin tubes into the area being treated. A source of radiation is then passed down the tubes into the prostate for a few minutes to destroy cancer cells. This allows an increase in the dose of radiation to the prostate while reducing the exposure to surrounding tissues. This new technique enables the doctors to treat a wider range of patients with brachytherapy.
Ireland has the highest incidence of prostate cancer in Europe with more than 3,400 men diagnosed annually. This number is expected to increase over the coming decades as the population ages.
Chris Kane, the general manager of Galway University Hospitals, stated that considerable advances have been made in both the surgical and radiotherapy options available in UHG in recent years.
“I am delighted that we now offer our patients a full range of radiotherapy options for treating prostate cancer: external beam radiotherapy, seed implant brachytherapy, and now HDR brachytherapy.”