Some 500 men have undergone a once off prostrate cancer treatment, involving the implantation of radiation seeds directly into the prostate as an alternative to conventional external beam radiotherapy and surgery, at Galway University Hospitals (GUH ) since 2007.
Brachytherapy treatment has been available to patients in the west as a result of the innovation of Professor Frank Sullivan, a consultant radiation oncologist. This treatment has gained international acceptance as a standard of care in the management of the disease.
Ireland has the highest incidence of prostate cancer in Europe with more than 3,000 men diagnosed annually. This number is expected to increase over the coming decades as the population ages. Considerable advances have been made in both the surgical and radiotherapy options in recent years.
Prostate (seed implant ) brachytherapy is a technique to treat early stage prostate cancer by strategically placing radioactive seeds inside the prostate gland (using specialised ultrasound guidance equipment ) where they remain to irradiate the malignant tissue within the prostate.
The option of brachytherapy for men who have been diagnosed with low risk prostate cancer means just one visit to hospital which is more convenient for patients who may otherwise require seven to eight weeks of daily external radiotherapy sessions or surgery. Some patients, with higher risk features, may need other additional treatments such as a short course of radiation and/or hormone therapy.
“GUH does not admit patients to a hospital bed for this day ‘surgery’,” said Professor Sullivan. “The patient comes in to GUH in the morning and goes home the same day. This represents a significant cost saving to the hospital over other available techniques.
“Patients who are suitable for prostate brachytherapy benefit from high dose highly targeted radiation, shorter treatment times and studies are showing disease control rates equivalent to the other curative options, as well as improved quality of life for patients.”
He outlined that GUH provides a full range of cancer treatments for patients with prostate cancer.
“Our Rapid Access Prostate Clinic has been hugely successful since its opening in 2009 and in 2010 the Prostate Cancer Institute at NUI Galway was established to develop new therapies and better treatments. We are well placed to deliver the latest treatment in a region that has the highest incidence of the disease nationally.”
Speaking as the service marked the milestone of treating its 500th patient he stated the hospital is providing access to this treatment option, on par with any cancer centre in the world.
“It is a huge credit to the hard work and determination of all staff to ensure that our patients have access to a full range of treatments.”
This is the second milestone reached by the prostate cancer services at GUH this year; in January the national prostate brachytherapy service was launched at GUH led by Professor Frank Sullivan.
It involved introducing brachytherapy as a treatment option following the training of specialists at St Luke’s Hospital, Rathgar, Dublin and Cork University Hospital as part of the National Cancer Control Programme.
Meanwhile a specialist clinic aimed at men coping with the side effects of prostate cancer, which may include incontinence, erectile dysfunction and emotional issues, will open at GUH next year. The facility will be piloted as part of a new programme funded by the Irish Cancer Society (ICS ) and the Movember Foundation which raises funds and awareness about men’s health.