For years, the debate has been ongoing regarding the best treatment method for prostate cancer patients. Now, two independent studies have reached similar conclusions. Already considered a good option for prostate cancer patients, brachytherapy (radiation seed implants) now has the backing of research from the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Chicago and The Taussig Cancer Center at Cleveland Clinic, proving a superior disease-free survival rate for patients with early stage prostate cancer.
In an 11-year study, the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Chicago, a non-profit organization that funds patient support programs, clinical research and public education, analyzed 9,137 patients between 1997 and 2008 who were treated for prostate cancer with brachytherapy at Chicago Prostate Center. 67.5% of the patients were regarded as low risk, 29.36% as intermediate, and 1.01% as high.
Of those patients, overall cure rates were 96%, 84%, and 75% for low, intermediate, and high risk patients, respectively. When combined with external beam radiation therapy in intermediate and high risk patients, the brachytherapy results far exceed those of surgery.
The Taussig Cancer Center at Cleveland Clinic has released their similar 2008 outcomes, demonstrating brachytherapy to be superior to surgery in all cases. For low risk patients, the study found a 95% survival rate after five years, 89% for intermediate risk, and 71% for high risk patients. This research concluded that, for low risk patients, brachytherapy was equally successful as external beam radiation, but more successful than a radical prostatectomy.
In addition to its effectiveness, brachytherapy is a minimally invasive treatment. Patients with prostate cancer in the T1 or T2 stages (meaning the cancer hasn't spread beyond the prostate) choose brachytherapy for a number of reasons:
- No incisions, minimal pain and blood loss
- Urinary incontinence rates less than 1% - compared to 10% with surgery
- 6-25% chance of sexual dysfunction following procedure - compared to 50% with surgery
- Lower rates of bowel irritation compared to external beam radiation
- Convenience - one-time, outpatient procedure, patients can return to normal activity within a day
- Lower cost compared to external beam radiation and surgery