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Scientists work to make prostate cancer treatment safer

Treatment for prostate cancer will soon be more precise.

Treatment for prostate cancer will soon be more precise.

Scientists around the world are trying to figure out ways to get rid of the cancer without damaging bladder, bowel and sexual functions.

Men usually survive prostate cancer (about 95 per cent are still alive after five years), but many suffer side effects because surgery and radiation can affect surrounding delicate tissue.

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland located just above a man’s rectum. It creates fluid that carries sperm during ejaculation.

One recent Canadian study is using frequent, high-tech digital imaging to follow changes that can happen day-to-day inside a man’s body. These tiny changes can alter very slightly the radiation target.


“We are treating the tissue that surrounds the prostate, which can move and stretch, so our target may be slightly different in position or shape on the next day or the day after that,” says Dr. Tim Craig, a medical physicist at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. The new technique is called adaptive radiation therapy (ART).

Dr. Craig and colleagues recently won a CASARIA award and funding from the Canadian Radiation Oncology Foundation and sanofi-aventis, which allows them to start enrolling patients later this year.

“Very simple and natural changes in patient anatomy can occasionally complicate treatment,” says Dr. Craig. “For example, reduced bladder filling might allow the very sensitive small intestine to slip into the high radiation dose region. Without image-guidance, this would not be known, and the small intestine may receive an unsafe dose. With ART, we can see this, and use this information to adapt the treatment to ensure a safe dose.”

A typical course of radition treatment for prostate cancer patients after surgery is 33 treatment days over six and a half weeks.


Finger length and prostate cancer


Men, have a look at the index finger on your right hand. Is it longer than your ring ringer?

If it is, you have a lower risk of prostate cancer than your buddies who have a longer ring finger.

Researchers in the U.K. studied the hands of 1,524 men with prostate cancer and 3,044 men without prostate cancer. They found men with a longer ring finger were more likely to develop prostate cancer. Finger length could help in selecting men for screening.

 
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