Research and advances in treatment in the past years have revealed new inexpensive and reliable surgery-free options for treating prostate problems, especially enlarged or cancerous prostates. One procedure uses laser ablation to remove cancer without invasive surgery. Another uses artery catheters to block blood flow to the prostate. These and other developing procedures are big news for men experiencing prostate issues and seeking safer solutions. Let’s take a close look at these and other alternatives to surgery.
Prostate Cancer and New Options for Treatment
Prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment is in a state of flux at the moment. Standards regarding prostate cancer, as well as screening options, are evolving. In 2013, for example, the United States updated its guidelines to reflect the growing dangers of prostate screening, biopsy and surgery. The new guidelines suggest men below the age of 55 should avoid routine prostate screening and those over the age of 80 should also avoid it, if their life span is limited. These guidelines reflect the fact that prostate treatments, particularly surgery, can do more harm than good.
Part of this reason for the subjective nature of prostate surgery is the nature of the prostate and prostate cancer. The prostate gland is traditionally difficult to scan and reach with surgical equipment, so the suggestive form of treatment is often to remove the prostate entirely, which invites not only a risk of infection but also other associated medical problems, such as urinary dysfunction. The other alternative is to continue screening the prostate to track the cancer and only take action when it appears to be growing significantly worse, a risky route that can allow cancer to continue.This approach is being changed by two technologies: Better imaging devices and more accurate medical lasers. The new scans and updated MRI imaging capabilities now allow doctors to take a closer look at prostate cancers and identify exactly where they are at — as well as spot indicators that separate more benign cancers from more dangerous, aggressive versions.The first step is highly detailed scans. The second is more useful laser ablation, or using laser technology to remove specific amounts of tissue. The latest ablation treatments combined MRI technology with a delicate laser device that can remove only a fraction of the prostate in a far less invasive operation that leaves the prostate intact. While more drastic options may be necessary for large, aggressive cancers, laser ablation is a much-needed alternative for minor prostate cancers, and an option that comes without the dangers inherent in extensive prostate surgeries and prostate removal. Ablation may also be combined with other cancer treatments such as focused radiation and other options.
Solving the Enlarged Prostate Problem in a New Way
An enlarged prostate, known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, is a condition that afflicts many men as they grow older. Contrary to some assumptions, an enlarged prostate has not been shown to increase the risk of getting prostate cancer. However, as the gland swells it can create other problems related to urinating, incontinence and pain.
Treating an enlarged prostate, much like treating prostate cancer, has traditionally focused on medications like Avodart, which can help relieve symptoms, as well as surgical options for more drastic cases. While medication remains a surgery-free option, researchers are also at work developing other alternatives.
Early studies led by Dr. Sandeep Bagla are exploring artery embolization treatments for enlarged prostates that can reduce symptoms without invasive procedures. The solution depends on blood flow. Specific arteries supply blood to the prostate. By identifying one of these arteries in the leg, doctors can insert a catheter and inject small beads to block the flow of blood to the prostate temporarily. The lack of blood flow, at least in the short term, helps the prostate shrink and leads to a reduction in symptoms. Since it is a short and relatively easy procedure, patient wallets also feel the benefits, since no expensive operating rooms or hospital stays are necessary.The first tests of this procedure took place in 2013 and research on the treatment is still being gathered. However, initial tests did not lead to complications and showed significant results among nearly all the men who took part in the early test. Since the study only tested 18 men, however, more scrutiny is needed before this procedure passes into mainstream medicine as offered as a treatment possibility a wide variety of patients.These advances in prostate treatment show how modern medical techniques can revolutionize traditional surgeries, offering new and less risky alternatives for many patients. The increase in options can encourage men to seek treatment for prostate problems they might otherwise choose to ignore, and it allows doctors to provide better advice for patients depending on the stage or nature of their prostate problems.