We’re winning the fight against prostate cancer

September 22, 2023 Providence Cancer Team

[5 MIN READ]  

In this article: 

  • The da Vinci robotic surgical system has enabled prostate cancer patients to undergo surgery with less pain and quicker recovery time.  

  • Another technology, called CyberKnife®, is used by Providence Swedish to treat more people in the Northwest than at any other health system. 

  • If you are a man between ages 55-69, talk to your doctor about whether prostate cancer screening is right for you. 

Just 10 years ago, prostate cancer treatment was a long, difficult process that often carried more risks than benefits. Men diagnosed with the disease needed to undergo an invasive surgery with a long recovery process, followed by an extensive regimen of external radiation therapy. 

Recently, however, new technology and therapies have made it much easier for men to undergo treatment without sacrificing their quality of life. Providence Swedish has been on the forefront of this new wave of prostate cancer treatment options. Here’s what’s been happening: 

Changes in surgical options  

The main type of prostate cancer surgery is a radical prostatectomy, which removes the full prostate. Traditionally, surgeons performed an open procedure during which they make a long incision to remove the prostate and nearby tissues. However, minimally invasive robotic surgery has changed that. 

Now, surgeons use robotic devices to treat prostate cancer through tiny incisions, resulting in less pain and blood loss. In some cases, patients can even go home the same day as their procedure. “The past 20 years have changed the patient experience,” says James Porter, M.D., medical director for robotic surgery at Swedish Urology First Hill and director of robotics for Providence Health and Services. 

Over the last two decades, Dr. Porter has completed more than 3,000 da Vinci robot-assisted procedures. Every few years, da Vinci offers an upgrade to its equipment, which allows surgeons to better visualize the surgical area and provides better accuracy and control. 

More targeted radiation therapy 

Not all prostates are the same, so when doctors want to treat cancer through radiation therapy, they prefer technology that allows them flexibility. That wasn’t always possible one or two decades ago. Now, however, they can use detailed, personalized treatment plans to target the cancer.  

“The oncologist’s tools for delivering radiation are evolving by leaps and bounds every five years,” says radiation oncologist Vivek Mehta, M.D., director of the Providence Swedish Center for Advanced Targeted Radiotherapies at Swedish Cancer Institute

One good example of this is stereotactic radiosurgery, also known as the “CyberKnife®” device. The CyberKnife delivers high-dose radiation by accurately concentrating radiation on a moving target without impacting non-cancerous tissues surrounding the target. Because a human being is always breathing, a prostate is, of course, always a moving target. 

“CyberKnife is what Providence Swedish is known for,” Dr. Mehta says. “Patients seek us out, and we treat more people with that technology than any other health care system in the Northwest.”  

Another type of radiation therapy, called brachytherapy, delivers cancer-destroying beams directly inside the targeted area, which also spares nearby tissues and prevents unnecessary damage.  

In addition to avoiding healthy tissue, new radiation therapy treatments are also much shorter than ever. “Ten years ago, radiation treatment for prostate cancer might take place Monday through Friday over seven weeks, around 35 visits. We can do the same treatment in just five, 40-minute visits today,” Dr. Mehta says. 

New treatments 

In addition to surgery and radiation therapy, radiopharmaceuticals have shown a lot of promise as options for particularly difficult-to-treat prostate cancers. Providence Swedish participated in trials for the medication Pluvicto®, which treats a type of prostate cancer that has spread to other body parts. It carries radioactive particles directly to the cancer cell particles, causing those cells to die. 

Providence Swedish is one of only a few health care providers in the Northwest that is offering Pluvicto to patients. “You can get state-of-the-art treatment now or participate in trials that define the state of the art for tomorrow,” Dr. Mehta says. 

Prostate cancer screening 

While there are many treatment options available for prostate cancer, the best way to obtain a good outcome is to detect it early. 

The American Cancer Society recommends that men talk with their health care providers about whether they should undergo a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test to screen for prostate cancer between the ages of 55 and 69. 

“We need to diagnose prostate cancer and get to it before it becomes life threatening,” Dr. Porter says.   

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Related resources 

Men: Take charge of your health 

Prostate cancer: What you need to know 

Annual exams for men 

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional’s instructions. 

About the Author

The Providence Cancer Team is committed to bringing you the most up-to-date insights about treatments, prevention, care and support available. We know cancer diagnoses strain you both mentally and physically, and we hope to provide a small piece of hope to you or your loved ones who are fighting the cancer battle with useful and clinically-backed advice.

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