Summary: Minimally invasive procedure eliminates common troublesome side effects of traditional prostate cancer treatment
On a routine physical exam in 1997, Ed Grimes had a PSA (prostate specific antigen) test, and was told by his doctor that he had a higher-than-normal reading. To be on the safe side, his doctor referred him to a urologist (Dr. Robert Gessler, Laurel, MD), who suggested that they monitor it for a year and then re-test. When Grimes returned for a follow-up exam, it was found that his PSA reading had risen again, this time to 6.9. A biopsy was done that confirmed that he had early stage prostate cancer. Dr. Gessler recommended that his patient come to the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center (UMGCC) for a minimally invasive treatment known as prostate seed implants, or prostate brachytherapy.
Prostate seed implants are the fastest growing treatment for prostate cancer in the U.S. today, and UMGCC is among the leaders in providing the technique. Dr. Pradip Amin, associate professor of Radiation Oncology at the University or Maryland School of Medicine, has performed over 2,000 of the procedures since 1988, more than the number performed at any other center in the region.
Prostate brachytherapy is a minor surgical procedure in which tiny radioactive seeds are inserted directly into the prostate gland to target the cancer cells while sparing healthy tissue. The procedure involves only a brief hospital stay and has been shown to have fewer side effects than other treatment methods. Ed Grimes is delighted that his urologist recommended the treatment, which he found to be virtually painless.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. They gave me an epidural, and I was wide awake for most of the procedure. Dr. Amin and Dr. Jacobs (Stephen C. Jacobs, M.D., professor of Surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine) worked together to do the procedure. I believe they implanted a total of 76 seeds. I stayed at the hospital overnight, so that they could monitor me and do a scan the next day to make sure all of the seeds were positioned correctly. I went home that day and feeling fine -- just some minor bruising in my groin area and a little soreness. I was only given a few restrictions on my activity -- not riding a bike or holding any babies on my lap for a few weeks. And I was told to have a checkup every six months to monitor my PSA level,” Grimes said.
The results were dramatic. Following his prostate seed implants, Grimes’ PSA reading went down to 0.4, well below the normal range. A former environmental manager for a telephone utility, the active 74-year-old Grimes is an avid wildlife photographer, and has devoted himself to a second career since retirement as a volunteer in environmental conservation, first with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, and currently at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, MD, where he works with captive whooping cranes.
“The decision to have prostate seed implants was the best thing I could have done,” he says. “I’m cancer-free, and I feel lucky that the treatment worked so well for me, and without side effects. I’ve talked to lots of other guys who have had different types of treatment for their prostate cancer – including surgery, hormone therapy,and radiation – and they haven’t always been as happy with their results,” says Grimes.
For more information on prostate seed implants or other treatments for prostate cancer at the Univeristy of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center, please contact the Department of Radiation Oncology at 1-800-888-8823.