September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), about 1 in 9 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. Being the most commonly diagnosed non-skin cancer among men in the U.S., ACS predicts a total of 164,690 new cases of prostate cancer for 2018. Although the survival rate for prostate cancer is high, the treatments, typically via surgery or radiation therapy, can cause discomfort and side effects. Fortunately, the Mary Bird Perkins TGMC Cancer Center offers a new, innovative technology that will increase the comfort levels of their patients and reduce the negative reactions from radiation treatments while also increasing the treatment’s effectiveness by using the SpaceOAR hydrogel. 

SpaceOAR hydrogel is the first FDA approved temporary spacing device that protects vital organs in patients being treated for prostate cancer. The gel has been proven to reduce bowel/rectal reactions by increasing the distance between the prostate and rectum. It is injected through the skin, in between a patient’s prostate and rectum, before his first treatment. After remaining in place through the course of the patient’s radiation treatment, it liquefies and then is absorbed and cleared from the body through urine after about 8-12 months. 

“When you undergo radiation therapy, we use either x-ray beams or implanted radiation seeds in the prostate that radiate the prostate and kill the cancer cells within it. However, either of those techniques involves scatter radiation to the nearby organs, one of which being the rectum, the others, being the bladder and small bowel… As for the rectum, it is right up against the back of the prostate, so it gets some scatter radiation that can cause inflammation, discomfort, bleeding, rectal irritation and diarrhea…during and after treatment,” said Dr. Daniel Bourgeois, Radiation Oncologist at Mary Bird Perkins TGMC Cancer Center and certified applier of SpaceOAR. “It [SpaceOAR] makes that treatment less risky and causes less side effects and toxicity.”

Before the more effective SpaceOAR was invented, a balloon would have to be inserted before each treatment that a prostate cancer patient receives, which is typically once a day for five to nine weeks, or they would require large radiation targets and treatment fields to encompass potential prostate motion. This innovative hydrogel makes this aspect of their treatment safer and less invasive compared to the balloon. The temporary gel, SpaceOAR, is only administered once and is more efficient at immobilizing the prostate. 

“We are also concerned about movement of the prostate because when the rectum is full or the bladder is full, the prostate can move within the body, and the SpaceOAR actually helps immobilize it,” Dr. Bourgeois said. This stabilization of the prostate also helps radiation oncologists with the targeting of the cancer and applying of treatments. 

“When I do the SpaceOAR, I also insert three gold seeds into the prostate. Every day, when they come for treatment, I get a CT scan that helps me align that with the target, so that we’re more conformal and accurate on the prostate,” Dr. Bourgeois said. 

Dr. Bourgeois and the rest of the team at the Cancer Center have recently been sharing their expertise on SpaceOAR and prostate cancer by doing various public service announcements and health screenings. Last week, they did a free prostate cancer screening where they blood tested over 100 men in one day. Dr. Bourgeois highlighted the importance of early detection and suggested one should consult with their doctor about screening by the age of 50-55. 

“If caught early, typically by screening…treatments like surgery and radiation are very, very effective, upwards of +95% cure rate, depending on stage and disease details,” he said. “That’s why screening can be pretty important.”

For more information on prostate cancer and SpaceOAR technology, visit the official Mary Bird Perkins TGMC website at marybird.org/location/mbptgmc/

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