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Making Progress with the Prostate

Category: Patient Stories
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Bad news first: One in six American men will eventually develop prostate cancer, the most commonly diagnosed non-skin cancer in the United States.

Now the good news: Today prostate cancer is more treatable than ever, with patients experiencing more successful outcomes and fewer negative side effects than many people ever thought possible.

“Years ago, when I started working for St. Luke’s, probably 85 percent of men diagnosed with prostate cancer were beyond the point of cure,” says Dr. Curt Hutchens, urologist at St. Luke’s Urology Associates. “Today, most men are curable – or at least long-term controllable. Today’s patients have far better outcomes and quality of life than they have in the past.”

In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the survival rate for prostate cancer is now at more than 97 percent. Dr. Hutchens says the success is due to many factors, including increased awareness, advancements in early diagnosis and cutting-edge treatment methods, such as a new treatment technique offered in Duluth exclusively at St. Luke’s.

The technique, a form of intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), uses advanced image guidance radiation therapy (IGRT) to create a more accurate picture of the prostate than has been previously possible. The key is a group of three or four small gold seeds implanted directly into the prostate. The seeds act as markers on CT scans and during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), showing the organ’s precise size and location and allowing for higher doses of targeted radiation to the cancer while significantly limiting radiation in the surrounding areas.

“This is becoming a popular option for many cancer patients because it can really minimize side effects without sacrificing results,” says Dr. Steve Bonin, radiation oncologist with St. Luke’s Radiation Oncology Associates. “The most exciting thing is that we can offer it here in Duluth.”

Of course, IMRT using image guidance and CT/MRI fusion isn’t the only option to treat prostate cancer. While there are surgical, medicinal and radiation options, a treatment plan is always created based on the most important thing: the patient.

“An absolutely critical thing to remember when treating prostate cancer is that no one treatment is suitable for everyone,” Dr. Hutchens says. “The best we can offer our patients is to be highly selective on an individual basis about which method of treatment is appropriate for any given patient.”

For more information about prostate cancer treatments or to make an appointment with St. Luke’s Urology Associates, call 800.586.0028.