When former New York Yankees manager Joe Torre was diagnosed with prostate cancer several years ago, his doctors gave him a good prognosis. Back in uniform just one month later, he symbolized strength for his team—and for the more than 186,000 other men who will have been diagnosed with the disease by year’s end . Fortunately, research is uncovering new ways to combat prostate cancer.
Traditional treatments for prostate cancer include surgery to remove the prostate (called a radical prostatectomy), external beam radiation to kill cancer cells and hormonal treatments. Brachytherapy, a relatively newer method, appears to be as effective as surgery—with fewer side effects.
In brachytherapy, best reserved for early-stage cancer confined to the prostate, small radioactive seeds are implanted directly into the gland. Today’s sophisticated imaging techniques map the exact size and location of the prostate, ensuring the most effective placement of the radioactive material. About the size of grains of rice, the seeds remain radioactive for weeks or months after implantation. Usually an outpatient procedure, brachytherapy is less likely to cause incontinence or erectile dysfunction, common side effects of surgery and radiation.
Researchers have located a gene that predisposes men to prostate cancer. The gene, HPC-1, is the first proof that there is a genetic component to the disease. This discovery may help identify high-risk patients and lead to new treatments.