This week in the Wall Street Journal, reporter Melinda Beck explores the pros and cons of various treatment options for prostate cancer. Specifically she digs deeper into the debate over proton-beam radiotherapy versus traditional external beam radiation therapy such as IGRT/IMRT. Proton radio therapy uses atomic particles to treat cancer rather than X-rays. While exponentially more expensive, theoretically, proton-beam therapy can target tumors more precisely, sparing healthy tissue surrounding the tumor. Critics of proton-beam therapy have been steadfast in their opinion that the significantly more expensive proton-beam therapy offers no significant advantage over IGRT/IMRT radiation therapy.
One in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime. Last year roughly 242,000 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer, many of whom elect to have surgery to remove their prostate or to have radiation therapy and survive their cancer diagnosis. However, about 28,000 men in the United States die each year from aggressive prostate cancer that goes undetected until they start to experience symptoms of their cancer, which is ofter too late. The key to survival with prostate cancer is early detection.
Once a man is diagnosed with prostate cancer he has to evaluate his treatment options carefully with his physician and decide which is right for him. Surgery and Radiotherapy offer equal survival rates and each has its own risks for potential side effects including incontinence and impotence, which can make deciding on a particular treatment option very difficult. Proponents of proton-beam therapy feel that the more precisely a tumor can be targeted the risks for these unpleasant side-effects can be minimized. Critics of proton-beam therapy cite studies where men have equal risk and success using both types of non-surgical treatment option. Men do need to know which treatment option is better. The best thing for men to do is to have discussions with their Radiation Oncologists and decide for themselves.
Melinda Beck’s article appeared in the December 14th edition of the Wall Street Journal .