For the one in seven men diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime, the prognosis is often frightening and deeply personal. Concerns over losing bladder control and sexual function are real, and recovery can be long.
Recent advances in detecting and treating prostate cancer can reduce these issues, resulting in faster recovery without radical surgery to remove the entire prostate. Emerson — located in Concord, Mass., — is one of the only places in New England with the expertise and equipment to offer the latest techniques to detect and treat prostate cancer in less invasive ways with excellent outcomes.
Typically, prostate cancer is identified when a patient has an exam with their primary care physician. Their doctor might feel a lump in the prostate or see elevated PSA (prostate-specific antigen) levels in a routine blood test. These patients are referred to a urologist for closer examination.
Patients are assessed through an MRI and a biopsy, and historically required invasive surgery or radiation to treat the cancer.
Focal Cryoablation Therapy — A Game-Changing Treatment Option
Today, under the close direction of Louis Liou, MD, PhD, of Emerson Health Urology in Concord, Mass., some patients have new options that do not require major surgery or radiation. With a generous donation from the Yeatts family, Emerson has new technology that allows urologists to treat lesions without removing a patient’s entire prostate. This advanced treatment is known as focal cryoablation therapy. For years, cryoablation, an FDA-approved procedure, has been used successfully to treat breast, liver, and kidney cancers.
Now, research proves that focal cryoablation has many benefits for patients with prostate cancer, including:
- Less invasive surgery — patients usually go home the same day with fewer side effects
- Faster recovery time — most patients return to their normal lifestyle two to three days later
- No life-altering or lasting side effects, such as incontinence or loss of sexual function
- No need for radiation
“We are very excited to offer focal cryoablation to patients at Emerson,” explains John Libertino, MD. “Cryoablation is a game-changer for men with prostate cancer. Now we have options for patients to avoid debilitating side effects of traditional prostate surgery.”
Before receiving focal cryoablation therapy, patients undergo a specialized MRI scan, known as multiparametric MRI, to identify areas that might be cancerous.
Emerson has a partnership with Shields Imaging to detect the precise location of cancer in the prostate.
“Our relationship with Shields includes access to the most sophisticated imaging equipment and radiologists with deep experience reading multiparametric MRI scans," explains Dr. Libertino. “Patients can go to our Concord and Westford locations, or anywhere there is a Shields Imaging Center throughout New England, and receive imaging and interpretation by skilled radiologists to pinpoint exactly where the cancer is — which improves patient outcomes.”
If prostate cancer is diagnosed, patients discuss treatment options with their urologist. Some patients, including those with small, localized tumors or recurring prostate cancer that was treated with radiation, may be candidates for focal cryoablation therapy.
“Focal cryoablation is a minimally-invasive, MRI-guided procedure that expertly targets small tumors inside the prostate. This allows us to destroy cancer while keeping the remainder of the prostate intact and preserving healthy tissue near the tumors, also eliminating the need for radiation,” explains Dr. Liou, who has a decade of experience with focal cryoablation.
“During the procedure, a probe is used with a special freezing gas. Guided by an MRI-fused image to be extremely precise, the cancer cells are frozen to cut off blood supply and ablate the cancer.
“Most patients go home the same day, experience little to no side effects, and are able to resume normal activities in just a few days,” continues Dr. Liou. Following cryoablation, patients have routine visits with their physician, usually along with MRIs, PSA tests, and biopsies to monitor the cancer treatment response.
Individualized Care with Advanced Approaches
Choosing the best way to treat prostate cancer is a personal decision for patients to make with their urologist. “At Emerson, we care for patients as individuals. We do not use a one-size-fits-all approach,” explains Dr. Libertino. “We understand prostate cancer has deeply personal physical and mental health effects on men and their partners. We have highly-experienced urologists using the latest technology and equipment, and that is why we are a destination for urologic care across the region and beyond.”