Galway University Hospital marks prostate cancer treatment milestone

Incidence of prostate cancer in Europe, 2012. Source: European Cancer Observatory.

Incidence of prostate cancer in Europe, 2012. Source: European Cancer Observatory.

Galway University Hospital has this week marked its 500th patient to undergo brachytherapy for prostate cancer.

This treatment involves transplanting radiation ‘seeds’ directly into the prostate in a single procedure, and is offered as a minimally invasive alternative to radiotherapy and surgery.

The treatment has been available at GUH since 2007 under consultant radiation oncologist Prof Frank Sullivan.

Ireland has one of the highest incidences of prostate cancer in Europe with some 3,000 men diagnosed every year. This number is expected to increase over the coming decades as the population ages.

However considerable advances have been made in the treatment of prostate cancer in recent years, and brachytherapy has gained international acceptance as a standard of care in the management of the disease.

Brachytherapy is used to treat early stage prostate cancer by strategically placing radioactive seeds inside the prostate gland where they remain to irradiate the malignant tissue within the prostate.

This treatment is designed for men who have been diagnosed with low risk prostate cancer, which can be treated in a single visit using brachytherapy. Patients with higher risk features may need additional treatments such as a short course of radiation and/or hormone therapy.

GUH treated its 500th patient with brachytherapy on November 1.

According to Prof Sullivan, the same-day procedure benefits patients because it is minimally invasive, and the hospital as there are significantly fewer costs involved in day surgery compared to prolonged hospital care.

“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 said.

“In GUH we provide the 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.”

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 Prof Frank Sullivan, which involved introducing brachytherapy as a treatment option following the training of specialists in St Luke’s Hospital, Rathgar, Dublin and Cork University Hospital as part of the National Cancer Control Programme.