The Benefits of Minimally Invasive Surgical Options for Lung Cancer

A diagnosis of lung cancer can leave you and your loved ones with a lot of questions, as well as fears. What treatment options are available? How will you recover? What will your quality of life be like?

For lung cancer patients, there is good news on the horizon. Recent innovations in minimally invasive surgical approaches are presenting more positive outcomes than what has been available in the past.

How is a minimally invasive approach different from traditional lung cancer surgery? And what benefits are patients seeing, as a result?

Traditional Approach to Lung Cancer Surgery

Unfortunately, this approach, known as a thoracotomy for lobectomy of the lung –in which the cancerous anatomical portion of the lung is removed – puts pressure on the ribs, as well as the underlying nerves causing significant pain for patients during recovery and for some patients, the pain is permanent. Moreover, this pain puts patients at increased risk for post-surgical health issues, including pneumonia.

How the Minimally Invasive Approach Works

Instead of relying upon one large incision and spreading the ribs, a minimally invasive approach only requires a few small incisions in which a camera and small surgical instruments are inserted.

Benefits for Lung Cancer Patients

Minimally invasive surgery translates into less pain for patients, as well as shorter recovery/healing time. This not only allows patients to return home within a day or two of their procedure, they are also able to return to their normal lives and routines with greater speed. This decreased recovery window enables doctors to administer follow-up treatments sooner.

Patients that might otherwise have been considered ineligible for surgery now have a new minimally invasive treatment option available to them. For example, patients with diminished lung function or emphysema – who might not have been eligible for more traditional surgical approaches – now can be considered for minimally invasive surgery.

Start by Having a Conversation

Don’t write off surgery. Given the advancements for lung cancer patients available today, talk to your doctor, you may have more options than you realize.

As a surgeon, I find it very rewarding to see a patient after surgery. They often look like they haven't had an operation and in a few cases, patients say they feel like they haven't even had an operation at all. With the minimally invasive approaches, they have a minimal amount of pain and recovery. What could be better than that?

We are here to help.

If you have questions about the MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute or are ready to schedule a consultation with one of our specialists, call us at 202-295-0513 or click the request a consultation button.

Minimally Invasive Surgical Options for Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer is found in the esophagus, the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach. It can occur at any point on that route and will be treated differently depending on its location and severity.

While the treatment for esophageal cancer has changed drastically over the decades, recent trends have seen the treatment options shift from highly invasive and destructive procedures to more minimally invasive procedures designed to uphold the patient's health and well-being throughout treatment.

Treatment Options for Various Types of Esophageal Cancer

Over the last several decades, adenocarcinoma (a type of esophageal cancer near the stomach) has become more widespread.

Unfortunately, because of the widespread availability of over-the-counter acid reflux medications, patients may not ever know they have this type of cancer and may write their chronic acid reflux off as nothing to worry about.

Cancer can present very few or no symptoms, so in most cases, patients with esophageal cancer don't know they have the disease until it's in an advanced stage. In many instances, esophageal cancer is diagnosed by accident when it has reached an advanced stage. At one point the only available treatment for late stage patients was a highly invasive" open case" treatment which involve large incisions in the abdominal and chest cavities), with a 50 percent risk of complications and chronic pain.

Fortunately, minimally invasive procedures are available that offer minimal pain, fast healing and the ability to go home and eat normally, rather than through feeding tubes.

Procedures for Early-Stage Patients

On the other hand, patients with very early-stage cancers can avoid to the removal of their esophagus, and instead only remove a portion of the tissue around the cancer, leaving the remainder of the stomach and esophagus without damaging the nerves or the valve that prevents reflux.

On the other hand, patients with later stages will need to remove more extensive amounts of tissue including the nerves to the stomach. While patients will have reflux and potential long-term stomach issues, it is a life-saving procedure for many.

Patients who have had previous open operations will still be able to access minimally invasive approaches, although it may take longer and be more challenging because of scar tissue.

What Minimally Invasive Options Mean for Patient Care

Minimally invasive surgery is the preferred, and often the best option vs. an open method. In addition to providing a faster healing time, minimally invasive procedures may offer a better cancer outcome than more invasive open approaches. Though doctors aren't exactly sure why this is true, it could be attributed to the fact that minimally invasive procedures minimize damage and are less stressful on the body during recovery.

It should be noted that minimally invasive surgical options are not the right course of action for all esophageal cancer patients. However, they can go a long way toward minimizing damage and expediting the healing process for these patients.

Looking Ahead

While further treatment options are sure to be developed in coming years, the current treatment options show great promise to patients and their families who are struggling through the murky waters of esophageal cancer and its many invasive and minimally invasive treatment options.

Between better outcomes and faster recovery times, it's easy to see why minimally invasive treatment options are becoming so popular among patients today.

We are here to help.

If you have questions about the MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute or are ready to schedule a consultation with one of our specialists, call us at 202-295-0513 or click the request a consultation button.

What You Should Know About Pre-Pectoral Breast Reconstruction

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, your thoughts might jump ahead to the possibility of needing a mastectomy and/or breast reconstruction, as part of your treatment. But just as each cancer is unique, so are your breasts.

There are several methods of breast reconstruction and you will need to speak with your breast surgeon and plastic surgeon to determine which is best for you. Pre-pectoral reconstruction involves placing the breast implant over the chest muscle.

But what are the advantages of pre-pectoral reconstruction? And are there any challenges you should be aware of?

Traditional Procedures and Drawbacks

During mastectomy, breast tissue is removed along with the cancer. Many times the cancer is located in a portion of the breast where the nipple can be spared, Traditionally, the plastic surgeon inserts a tissue expander or breast implant either partially or completely under the muscle.

Tissue expanders are meant to gradually stretch the skin, however it’s often painful because the chest muscle is slowly stretched as well. In addition to the post-operative discomfort, the aesthetic outcome tends to look flat and unnatural since the implant is under the muscle.

Due to the pain of stretching muscle and the aesthetic deficiencies of under the muscle implants, other methods have been developed, including one that involves partial muscle coverage. But like the previous method, this type of breast reconstruction method also has disadvantages.

For example, this procedure often produces a flat, unnatural look because the implant is located under the muscle. Furthermore, given the fact that it is directly under the skin, the muscle is visible especially when the patient uses their chest muscles. This is similar to watching a body-builder flex their chest muscles. This tends to be distracting when women are exercising in public, since every time they use their chest muscles, the implant shows visible distortion.

Looking beyond the individual outcomes for each of these procedures, traditional reconstruction techniques overall can result in chronic soreness for patients, in the years following their procedure.

How Pre-Pectoral Reconstruction Works

These drawbacks have left an opening for a more advanced option: pre-pectoral breast reconstruction. With this method, the implant is placed over the muscle. This means there is little to no muscle deformity or pain associated with the procedure, since the muscle does not have to be cut. Instead, the implant is placed directly under the skin.

Of course, like most surgeries, there are some disadvantages. Early complications may include bleeding, infection, pain or seroma, which is fluid collection around the implant. Once you heal, there is a small chance your implants will rotate so they look upside down, and or they may rupture. In addition, most implants last for 10 to 15 years, so most women will need to have another procedure for new implants in future.

It should be noted that, women who benefit from this procedure are in relatively good shape and have small to medium sized breasts that are not overly saggy. Additionally, the breast cancer cannot have been located in the nipple area, which must be left intact.

Finding the Right Surgery Team for You

If you are considering pre-pectoral breast reconstruction, you should set up an appointment with a board-certified plastic surgeon who specializes in this area and can offer individualized care. This way, your doctor can guide you toward the right type of surgery for your circumstances.

The top priority of breast cancer treatment is to remove cancer and do an extensive enough surgery to ensure the risk of recurrence is low. The second goal is to give you a safe, aesthetically pleasing breast reconstruction. For this reason, you need a team of surgeons and specialists working closely together with constant communication between doctors.

We are here to help.

If you have questions about the MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute or are ready to schedule a consultation with one of our specialists, call us at 202-295-0513 or click the request a consultation button.

Targeted Therapies for Specific Types of Lung Cancer

For some people who have lung cancer, immunotherapy can be an effective tool because it relies on the body's immune system to eliminate cancer cells. Targeted therapies, on the other hand, do not directly affect the immune system; instead, they directly attack specific cancerous cells. Targeted therapy is meant for a small, defined population of lung cancer patients.

Targeted therapy acknowledges that lung cancer is not one diseaseThere are dozens of types of lung cancer, and each behaves differently. These different types of cancers require individualized types of treatment.

As medicine has come to understand those differences more completely, targeted therapies have been developed to address and treat the various types of lung cancer.

What You Should Know About Targeted Therapy

When it comes to targeted therapy, most of the questions people have are about the testing itself. Since targeted therapy uses medication that attacks specific components of a tumor's DNA, the first step is to determine whether a tumor will react to the regimen. This requires testing of the tumor through a biopsy. The biopsy may be tested on-site or may be sent out to another institution, but results are generally available in a matter of days.

When the biopsy reveals a mutation, an oncologist will work with you to determine which type of targeted therapy will be most effective against that particular mutation.

You should know that there are three specific DNA mutations for which the FDA has approved drugs for advanced lung cancer. These drugs are superior to chemotherapy and can begin working immediately. They typically come in the form of a pill taken once or twice a day and offer better responses than chemotherapy.

Even if the mutations that doctors expect are not present, your doctor can work with you to search for other mutations that can be treated with targeted therapies. Otherwise, you may move on to chemotherapy, an appropriate treatment approach.

Keep in mind that there may also be clinical trials that are available to patients with certain types of mutations.

How Targeted Therapies Influence Patient Care

Today, standard DNA and biopsy tests should be done on virtually everyone with lung cancer in the United States. Be aware that insurance may not cover more advanced tests, and that out-of-pocket expenses can be high. Don't despair, there are many assistance programs designed to help people afford advanced testing.

While advanced targeted therapies can work very well, they are not a "cure," and it is important for patients to temper their expectations accordingly. If a particular drug stops working, doctors will determine how the target has changed, and address the new reality accordingly.

While targeted therapies are effective for only a small percentage of lung cancer patients, they can be a well-tolerated and efficient form of medication that is intended for long-term administration. While they do not "cure" cancer, they can offer a durable solution that opens up a whole new cabinet of potential treatments for lung cancer patients.

As time goes on, doctors hope to identify more mutations and to offer more specific, targeted therapies to help improve the prognosis for other lung cancer patients.

We are here to help.

If you have questions about the MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute or are ready to schedule a consultation with one of our specialists, call us at 202-295-0513 or click the request a consultation button.

Immunotherapy and Its Evolving Role with Lung Cancer Treatment

Immunotherapy is a promising treatment for lung cancer. The concept isn’t new. Since the 1970s, doctors have turned to medicine as a tool to stimulate the immune system’s defensive response to cancer. In the past, immunotherapy was used to treat kidney cancer and melanoma.

It is only recently that researchers have found ways to apply the same principles to treating certain types of lung cancer.

Changing the Treatment Outlook for Lung Cancer

Although there are several treatment options doctors can use to treat lung cancer, it isn’t unusual for these cancers to stop responding to chemotherapy after a few months. Fortunately, medical research indicates that immunotherapy might be an option when other methods of treatment prove ineffective.

In 2012, researchers reported encouraging results in a small percentage of people who used immunotherapy to treat non-small cell lung cancer. Other studies involved subsets of patients who lived for many years after receiving immunotherapy when their cancer did not respond to chemotherapy.

Whereas most developments in cancer care produce marginal improvements, immunotherapy has proven to offer dramatic, durable benefits to a limited group of patients. In fact, some patients have lived for several years beyond what would have been possible with conventional treatments.

Some patients in these groups tolerate immunotherapy medicines better than chemotherapy drugs, with fewer side effects, which means they can fight their cancer while enjoying a better quality of life.

Limitations of Immunotherapy

The challenge with immunotherapy is that it seems to work only for a minority of cancer patients. Doctors don’t always know which patients will respond to immunotherapy, although several medical studies are underway to identify which cancers and which patients respond to different immunotherapies.

Research has shown that some cancers express a particular protein called PD-L1 that predicts response to certain immunotherapy drugs. This test can be ordered by your physician.

Who Does Immunotherapy Work For?

For patients whose lung cancer expresses PD-L1, a recent study has shown immunotherapy with a drug called pembrolizumab was superior to chemotherapy as the first treatment for advanced lung cancer.

For other patients, chemotherapy may be the preferred treatment but when chemotherapy stops working, immunotherapy, with drugs like pembrolizumab, nivolumab, or atezolizumab, may be a good option. In this setting, immunotherapy would be expected to work for about 20 percent of patients. Doctors are not sure if the other 80 percent of patients will respond to other types of immunotherapy.

Clinical trials are currently studying the effects of new immunotherapy drugs and new combinations, which could become available soon.

Is Immunotherapy Right for You?

Immunotherapy isn’t right for everyone with lung cancer. If you have a serious autoimmune condition, it’s less likely to be a suitable treatment option for you. In fact, it could make your condition worse. Depending on the type of lung cancer you have, there might be other treatments that your oncologist would prefer to use instead.

Don’t rule out asking your oncologist if immunotherapy is an option for you. Most doctors are happy to discuss all available treatments with their patients and explain why they are or are not suitable. You might even be a candidate to join a clinical trial for a new immunotherapy drug.

Final Thought

If you have nonsmall-cell lung cancer, talk to your oncologist about immunotherapy. This treatment may be a good option if other treatments aren’t working for you. With new immunotherapy drugs in development, there may be an emerging medicine - or combinations of medicines - that could help control your cancer or send it into remission.

We are here to help.

If you have questions about the MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute or are ready to schedule a consultation with one of our specialists, call us at 202-295-0513 or click the request a consultation button.

Why Is Pancreatic Cancer So Deadly and What Are the Treatment Options?

Nearly 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas each year. In the vast majority of these cases — approximately 95 percent — patients have one specific type of cancer: adenocarcinoma of the pancreas.

The remaining 5 percent of pancreatic cancer patients have different treatment options and prognoses.

A Brutal Disease

As with any cancer, when one of the body's mechanisms for controlling the growth of abnormal cells breaks down, those atypical cells begin to divide rapidly and form one or more tumors.

After a person develops a pancreatic tumor, many of the cancer cells can spread outside this organ. Some of those tumor cells will travel to other body parts via the bloodstream or lymphatic system. Most often, they go to the liver, lungs and abdominal cavity.

Pancreatic cancer is particularly deadly because of the pancreas' location ― in the middle of the abdomen and close to vital organs. Also, tumors that develop in the pancreas typically do not cause symptoms until they have grown to cause symptoms in the area of the pancreas, or have even spread to other parts of the body. As a result, doctors often find and diagnose pancreatic cancer when it has already reached a more advanced stage than other cancers.

In fact, about 60 percent of the time, a patient's pancreatic cancer has already spread by the time he or she receives a diagnosis. In another 20 to 25 percent of cases, the cancer hasn't yet spread at the time of diagnosis, but is inoperable.

Even when pancreatic cancers are detected at early stages, they tend to be extremely aggressive. In fact, more than 70 percent of pancreatic cancers that are successfully operated on still lead to death.

Treatment Options

Pancreatic cancer treatment involves a multidisciplinary effort. A surgeon, medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, and others work together to determine which actions and therapies should have the most desirable outcomes.

Only 10 to 20 percent of pancreatic cancer patients are diagnosed with an operable cancer, the only type of pancreatic cancer that can be cured. Inoperable cancers can be controlled or treated, but not cured. Sometimes, an inoperable cancer treated with radiation therapy or chemotherapy can be rendered operable.

When a patient has an incurable form of pancreatic cancer, chemotherapy is usually helpful.

Without chemotherapy, the symptoms of cancer can be devastating. These include severe pain, chronic fatigue and extreme weight loss. Chemotherapy can stabilize and even shrink tumors, weakening their physical impact and causing patients to feel better. Plus, chemotherapy regimens have become more effective in recent years, and their side effects are generally short-term and cyclical, allowing a patient to maintain a relatively high quality of life despite being on chemotherapy

New Research, New Hope

Research into pancreatic cancer is going strong. Medical experts are exploring a wide range of drugs and therapies and dozens of clinical trials are underway.

If you get a pancreatic cancer diagnosis, a second opinion is vital, and it's important to see oncologists and specialists with extensive experience. In addition, try to go to a medical facility that offers innovative pancreatic cancer treatment options. With personalized, cutting-edge care, you should be able to fight the cancer, and maintain as high a quality of life as possible, for as long as possible.

We are here to help.

If you have questions about the MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute or are ready to schedule a consultation with one of our specialists, call us at 202-295-0513 or click the request a consultation button.

Early Detection, Robotic Surgery Help Cancer Patient Avoid Radiation

As a loving husband and devoted father, Earl always took his physical health seriously. He never smoked, scheduled annual physicals and went to the dentist regularly. He was doing everything he could to ensure that he would always be there for his family.

When his daughter complained of a sore throat one day, it's no surprise that Earl jumped at the chance to make it a teachable moment. He explained to his daughter that swollen lymph nodes often accompany a sore throat. As he was showing her how to check her lymph nodes, he noticed that a lymph node on the left side of his neck was enlarged.

While Earl thought this was odd, he decided to wait to talk to his doctor at his upcoming physical, which was just a few weeks away. At his physical, in early November, Earl's primary care physician confirmed that the left neck lymph node was enlarged and required a closer look.

A biopsy was scheduled for early January.

Earl's Diagnosis and Surgery

By the end of January, the results were back — Earl was officially diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, a form of cancer that had spread into his lymph node. Earl's primary care physician directed him to an Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist, who identified the primary cancer site at the base of his tongue. The ENT recommended immediate treatment and provided Earl with the names of several specialists in the DC area.

After researching these surgeons online, Earl chose to work with Stanley Chia, MD, Chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

At this appointment, Dr. Chia evaluated Earl's throat to confirm the primary cancer site was located at the left base of his tongue. He then ordered a PET-CT to make sure the cancer was isolated to only the tongue base and the lymph node in the left neck.

Once it was confirmed that the cancer had not spread beyond the lymph node, Dr. Chia explained to Earl that he was a prime candidate for robotic surgery. The base of tongue can be difficult to reach with standard surgical techniques, and the robotic approach is ideally suited to this approach. Surgery to remove the lymph nodes from the left side of his neck would be performed simultaneously.

Surgery was set for April 4, which was ideal timing for Earl, because it allowed him to keep his plans to spend his daughter's spring break with his family.

While Earl was nervous as his surgery date approached, he was pleased that Dr. Chia took the time to explain the process and answer all his questions, such as "What kind of scarring should I expect?" and "What are the side effects of surgery?"

Surgery was a success. Earl was able to talk the same day as his surgery. He began eating the day after surgery, and within a few weeks, Earl was eating normally again.

Evaluating His Treatment Options

While surgery was a success, Earl knew that he now had to determine if he would continue on with radiation treatment. Fortunately, the biopsy from surgery showed that the cancer was HPV positive, which meant it had a better prognosis than traditional smoking-related cancers. The biopsy report also confirmed that the surgery had successfully removed the cancerous cells in the tongue and neck.

Standard treatment for head and neck cancers after surgery often includes radiation treatment or even chemotherapy. Earl discussed his treatment options with Dr. Chia and Adedamola Omogbehin, MD, on the radiation team at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, and even sought a second opinion.

After evaluating all his options and taking a close look at the side effects associated with radiation treatment, Earl decided to forgo further treatment. He attributes his ability to avoid radiation treatment to early detection, as well as the success of his robotic surgery.

Looking Ahead

Today, Earl is glad to be a cancer survivor, and he has a new outlook on life. He says that the whole process happened very quickly, but that he was very happy with the honest and accurate information provided by Dr. Chia and Dr. Omogbehin.

Earl encourages others to pay close attention to their own personal health and not to be fooled into thinking it can't happen to them. He urges other to be proactive and to get anything that seems odd checked out as soon as possible.

We are here to help.

If you have questions about the MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute or are ready to schedule a consultation with one of our specialists, call us at 202-295-0513.

Why Doctors Are Rethinking Early-Stage Breast Cancer Treatment

Most women with early-stage breast cancer discover the disease only after screening with a mammogram. Symptoms may not present in a dramatic or noticeable way, so women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer are understandably shocked and unprepared as they begin their cancer journey.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer, it would be rational and reasonable to jump to quick conclusions, some dire. But keep in mind that doctors are rethinking early-stage breast cancer treatment.

You or your loved one might benefit from recent research that allows doctors to prescribe treatment options that are more targeted, more focused and more effective than ever before.

The Three Types of Breast Cancer

Current research shows that breast cancer usually falls into one of three categories:

  • Endocrine receptor-positive, wherein estrogen or progesterone receptors play a role;
  • HER2-positive, wherein human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 plays a role; or
  • Triple negative, wherein none of the above are involved.

This discovery allows doctors to identify the exact factors at play in your cancer diagnosis, thereby narrowing down appropriate treatments options to the most efficient and effective. Over-treating breast cancer can cause significant side effects for some women.

As much as doctors want to avoid a passive treatment regimen that doesn’t target or kill cancer, they also strive to eschew unnecessary treatments that might lead to other health problems. The ability to identify which type of cancer you have ensures that your treatment is balanced and purposeful.

Chemotherapy Isn't Always Useful

In the past, it was typical for doctors to surgically remove breast cancer tumors and to employ chemotherapy as a method for treating breast cancer, including early stage forms. Contemporary research indicates that chemotherapy doesn't always play a decisive role in early stage breast cancer treatment or in the prevention of recurrence.

Because research has proven that chemotherapy might not always be the best approach, cancer specialists might be less likely to use it as a treatment option except for when absolutely necessary. This discovery means that many women might be able to avoid the unwanted side effects of chemotherapy, including:

  • Heart problems
  • Osteoporosis
  • Anemia
  • Vomiting
  • Memory loss
  • Fatigue

No one wants to go through chemotherapy unless the treatment is essential. Doctors understand this, and they now have the information they need to make better decisions regarding your treatment.

If you have tiny tumors that are difficult to remove surgically, or if you have conditions that make it likely for tumors to return in the future, you may need chemotherapy. The side effects of this treatment plan will make life difficult for a while, but your cancer specialist should be able to prescribe a focused regimen that works specifically for your unique needs.

Final Thought

Your diagnosis of early stage breast cancer will be emotionally daunting and physically exhausting. However, you can find some reassurance in the fact that doctors know more today than ever before about identifying and treating breast cancer.

That way your recovery can happen with as few side effects and treatments as possible.

We are here to help.

If you have questions about the MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute or are ready to schedule a consultation with one of our specialists, call us at 202-295-0513.

CyberKnife® Treatment Option Brings New Hope for Prostate Cancer Patients

According to the American Cancer Society, one in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer within their lifetime - and of those cases, one in 39 will prove to be fatal. However, with early detection, prostate cancer is very treatable, with both surgical and nonsurgical interventions.

And one of the most promising nonsurgical treatments emerging as a new option for prostate cancer patients  is called CyberKnife®. This treatment uses targeted beams of radiation to the prostate, sparing the surrounding healthy tissue - including critical structures like the bladder and rectum.

But how does CyberKnife® benefit our patients?

Fewer Treatments and Side Effects with CyberKnife®

The MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute was the first in the mid-Atlantic region to offer CyberKnife®, and is one of the most experienced in the world to use this technology. And Sean Collins, MD, a radiation oncologist who is a leading expert in the procedure, says one of the most significant benefits of CyberKnife® is the reduced number of treatments required.

“For many men, the CyberKnife® requires only five treatments instead of the standard course of radiation therapy that generally requires up to 40 treatments and lasts eight to nine weeks,” says Dr. Collins.

He also notes that side effects are similar to those a patient might experience with traditional radiation therapy, such as bladder and bowel urgency, impotence and rectal bleeding. “However, we know that quality of life is a big issue for prostate cancer patients, and with the CyberKnife®, we typically have fewer side effects—both short and long term.”

“I even hit golf balls in the days between my treatments,” said Neal Bobys, 68, who was the 1,000th CyberKnife® under. Dr. Collins. “I’ve had no pain from the treatment at all. Nothing about my daily life has changed because I have prostate cancer. I now look forward to getting on with my active life and improving my golf game.”

CyberKnife® vs. Traditional Radiation Therapy

In your body, prostates move and adjust with rectal and bladder filling. To account for this range of motion, conventional radiation therapy requires the use of large treatment margins. To protect the adjacent bladder and rectum, this treatment for prostate cancer is given five days per week over eight weeks.

CyberKnife® is unique in that it tracts prostate motion and adjust for it allowing for smaller treatment margins. It’s also more precise, given that it can deliver the required amount of radiation from hundreds of directions.

“Another benefit to CyberKnife® is that studies show that higher doses of radiation decrease the risk of the prostate cancer coming back.”

In fact, a recent study of CyberKnife® - in which the MedStar Georgetown University Hospital was one of over 20 participating centers - has shown promising results over longer periods of time, with high rates of biochemical control and low high-grade toxicity. In addition, it's proven as highly convenient for patients.

"But the important thing about this study is that the patients are actually followed for five years," says Dr. Collins. "And in that timeframe, we still see a very low rate of late toxicity with adequate follow-up. For our patients, that means, instead of going for eight weeks of daily radiation an hour a day, Monday through Friday, you can actually get your treatment done in five treatments over one to two weeks."

You Need a Team in Your Corner

CyberKnife® is a new chapter of hope for prostate cancer patients - because it doesn’t matter if you have a new, early-stage diagnosis, have already undergone radiation therapy or are too frail for surgery. CyberKnife® is an option worth exploring.

We are here to help.

If you have questions about the MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute or are ready to schedule a consultation with one of our specialists, call us at 202-295-0513 or click the request a consultation button.

Prostate Cancer Treatments and Emerging Therapies

When men are diagnosed with prostate cancer, their first question is usually, “Can it be cured?” Often, their second question is, “What are my treatment options?”

Fortunately, research, diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer has advanced significantly. Many treatments for prostate cancer are considered safe and effective; even so, it’s important to discuss your treatment options with your doctor or specialist(s), so you can understand the process and side effects.

Discussing Treatments

When you begin your exploration of prostate cancer treatments, you should think of your urologist as your team leader. Ask him or her for the names of two or three other prostate cancer experts you can speak to, including a medical oncologist, a radiation oncologist and another urologist.

Ask your doctor the following questions:

  • Whom would you depend on for your own diagnosis and treatment?
  • Whom would you want a family member to visit if they were diagnosed with prostate cancer?

When you discuss your cancer with a professional, it helps to bring along a significant other or friend who might be willing to raise topics that you feel uncomfortable bringing up; and may absorb information from the conversation that you don’t yet understand.

Seeking a Specialist

After you've gathered diagnosis and treatment advice from more than one source, it's time to find a provider. Keep in mind that it's best to prioritize your search by looking for a recommended expert or well-established practice rather than for a specific therapy. 

For instance, it's not a good idea to focus your search based on the procedure such as transoral robotic surgery (TORS) for prostatectomy and then hoping the surgeon will meet your needs.  Instead, search for an outstanding specialist and allow that person to help you decide which form of therapy is best for you. Also consider a multidisciplinary medical team with proven expertise in prostate cancer care. Experience is crucial to successful remission of the disease.

Traditional vs. Cutting-Edge Therapies

The vast majority of prostate cancer cells present as localized areas of disease. Standard treatments for localized cancers are radiation and surgery. For metastatic or recurrent prostate cancers, hormone therapy has become a common treatment option. 

As research advances, new and promising forms of prostate cancer treatments are becoming available. One of the most exciting innovations is molecular analysis of DNA abnormalities; in particular, researchers are investigating DNA repair genes, mutated androgen receptors and ways to tailor hormone and chemotherapies to address specific molecular defects. 

Molecular analysis can help doctors and specialists decide which specific cancer therapies will be ideal for individual patients. Additionally, these tests can indicate the best time to initiate or end a treatment based on the reaction of genes found on cancerous tumors.  Ideally, scientists will use molecular analysis to develop inhibitors that prevent the cellular abnormalities that can lead to prostate cancer. Other innovations include turning to chemotherapy early in the treatment schedule as well as utilizing vaccines to combat the growth of tumors.

When the Best Treatment Is No Treatment

New urine and blood tests may be able to calculate a prostate cancer patient's risk of spreading. If your prostate cancer is not aggressive and unlikely to spread, you and your doctor might want to discuss simply monitor your health over time - a course of action called "active surveillance."  Active surveillance might include regular biopsies and other tests, but not necessarily treatment. When your best treatment is no treatment, you can avoid unnecessary, expensive therapies and possible side effects.

Final Thought

If you face a prostate cancer diagnosis, know that you have a variety of treatment options available to you and that innovative options are possible. With the guidance of experienced medical professionals and your loved ones at your side, you can find a treatment that is right for you to help you continue living an active, healthy life.

We are here to help.

If you have questions about the MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute or are ready to schedule a consultation with one of our specialists, call us at 202-295-0513 or click the request a consultation button.