Healthcare Technology Featured Article

January 17, 2012

Prostate Cancer Survivors Benefiting from New Procedures and Technologies

It’s been very confusing, and upsetting, for men of a certain age. Should they or should they not have a PSA? 

The PSA is one of the most important ways of detecting an early prostate cancer, and the earlier the better, Dr. David Samadi, vice chairman, department of urology, and chief of robotics and minimally invasive surgery at The Mount Sinai Medical Center, said in a press release.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) predicts another 240,000 U.S. men will receive a diagnosis of prostate cancer this year, according to the press release. While no one wants to be unlucky enough to be in that number, “prostate cancer-specific deaths dropped 39 percent since the 1990s,” the press release reports.

About one man in six will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime, according to the ACS. One in 36 men will die of the disease. But more than 2 million men in the United States who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point are still alive today.

Two developments have led the way to the decrease in prostate cancer deaths. The first is widespread PSA screening and secondly, improved surgical treatment, in the form of robotic prostatectomy, according to the press release. 

Today, with a diagnosis of prostate cancer, robotic surgery can provide a less invasive, smaller-incision one-day surgery that leaves the patient with a quicker recovery, and with just as good an outcome as traditional surgery.  However, prostate cancer still remains the second leading cause of death in men.

Samadi said in the press release that he can’t stress enough the importance of early detection through the PSA, despite recent government guidelines recommending against it, as reported by Julie Steenhuysen at Reuters.

According to the press release, “several large population based studies have in fact demonstrated a survival advantage from routine PSA screening.”

Currently, an estimated 85 percent of US prostatectomy surgeries are being done with the surgeon-guided assistance of robotic technology, the press release states.

“Undoubtedly, robotic surgery is part of our success in reducing prostate cancer deaths,” said Samadi. “It’s the surgeon’s ability rather than the machine. The robot allows for a less invasive, quicker surgery, however, the surgeon behind the console is what truly determines outcomes and education of these physicians is of paramount importance.”

Incontinence and sexual functioning continue to be the two primary concerns men must deal with when electing to have either traditional or robotic prostatectomy surgery.

A five-month study, led by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, of Medicare prostate cancer surgery patients to assess side effect differences between robotic prostatectomy surgery and traditional prostatectomy surgery, found that the data “showed no statistical significance with regard to severity or incidence of sexual and urinary issues with robotic prostatectomy surgery,” the press release said. The study was reported in this month’s Journal of Clinical Oncology.

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Deborah DiSesa Hirsch is an award-winning health and technology writer who has worked for newspapers, magazines and IBM in her 20-year career. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell
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