Patient stories / 09 Nov, 2020

Beating the odds of prostate cancer – how Andrew avoided the struggle of treatment side effects

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Icon patient Andrew shares his experience with targeted prostate cancer treatment

As a health economist, Beaumaris local Andrew Dalton understands the importance of making evidence-based decisions. For many years he routinely presented at his GP to have his cholesterol, blood pressure and PSA checked, and when he was told his PSA had incrementally increased to 4.9, Andrew’s mind immediately went to his 1 in 4 chance of cancer.

“After referral to a urologist and further testing, I learned I was unlucky in that although I only had a 25% risk of a malignancy, a biopsy revealed I had a tumour with a Gleason score of 7 (3+4). I knew the diagnosis wasn’t trivial and there was a small statistical chance that this is what might get me. I chose not to share the news with anyone except my close friends and family. Thankfully, that’s when my luck changed,” Andrew said.

Andrew was told that because his cancer was localised and found at an early stage, he was a perfect candidate for focal brachytherapy delivered at Icon Cancer Centre Freemasons within Epworth Freemasons Hospital.

For many men, prostate cancer treatment involves significant side effects including urinary incontinence and sexual dysfunction, along with the emotional distress both a cancer diagnosis and the impact of treatment can cause. Focal brachytherapy is a highly-targeted technique which involves the implantation of small radioactive seeds directly into the cancerous area of the prostate. These seeds deliver precise radiation to destroy the cancer over a short period of time. Unlike traditional brachytherapy, the seeds are placed into the tumour rather than the whole prostate, preserving the rest of the prostate gland and limiting side effects.

Andrew, who received focal brachytherapy in December 2019, says he had “everything to gain and nothing to lose” by undergoing this cutting-edge treatment.

“There were good prospects for success, but even if the treatment wasn’t successful, the alternative treatment options of a prostatectomy or more aggressive treatments would still be available.”

“I had no worries at all, it just makes sense to treat the tumour itself and preserve the function of the prostate as much as possible.”

Focal brachytherapy is a minimally invasive procedure which requires a single day surgery. The advanced treatment helps men quickly return to normal life without additional side effects, while actively fighting the cancerous cells for up to three months after the surgical treatment. For Andrew, avoiding side effects and recovery periods from traditional treatments to the whole prostate was very important.

“I’m 64 but even if I was 90, I still wouldn’t want to be incontinent or face such difficult side effects. This can have a huge impact on your confidence as well. The whole focal brachytherapy treatment has been easy. If you erased my memory, I wouldn’t know I had the procedure. There was a little discomfort and bruising in the first month but everything continued on as normal; life hasn’t changed for me.”

In addition to the support of his partner Nina, he credits his care team for supporting him through his treatment.

“Receiving multidisciplinary care from both a radiation oncologist and urologist helped give me a good understanding of what would be involved. I felt comfortable in their knowledge and experience, and we had a lot of jokes and laughs!”

As part of his treatment, Andrew has joined an Australian-first study known as the LIBERATE clinical registry. The registry, launched by Icon Cancer Centre in collaboration with Epworth Healthcare, aims to support the use of new precision focal brachytherapy for men with prostate cancer and reduce side effects to preserve their quality of life. Andrew looks forward to participating in the study and helping prostate cancer patients access advanced treatment without facing difficult side effects in the future.

“Research is fundamental in the treatment of cancer. Joining the LIBERATE registry and contributing to evidence of focal brachytherapy for the benefit of future patients has been a very good thing.”

“The great strength of this treatment is that my life hasn’t changed, although the COVID-19 pandemic has made things a bit difficult. Nina and I were meant to be travelling in Italy this year and look forward to a bit more travel in the future, alongside working on the house and improving my golf handicap!”

For men with prostate cancer who may be looking at focal brachytherapy treatment, Andrew says “go for it”.

“The benefits accrue for the rest of your life.”

For more information on focal brachytherapy for prostate cancer and the LIBERATE clinical registry, click here.

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