Prostate cancer - among the most common forms of cancer
Prostate cancer is the most common disease among the male population in the Western world. About 30 million men in Europe are confronted with a diagnosis of prostate cancer in their lifetime. Every year about 450,000 males are diagnosed in Europe, which means it is one of the most common form of cancer. Each year about 75,000 men die from prostate cancer. However, the good thing is that the five-year survival chance is more than 80%. The cure rates are increasing as better diagnoses and therapies are being developed and implemented.
Most prostate cancers are first found as a result of PSA-screening (Prostate-Specific Antigen). It is a simple blood sample test that is normally taken in the arm. If the PSA value is above recommended level, or has increased from previous time further investigation is recommended, which may include rectal examination of the patient and biopsy of the prostate.
The biopsy is a sample of the prostate cells taken with a thin needle during local anaesthesia from several places in the prostate. Generally, 10 to 12 tissue samples are taken. The biopsy is sent to a laboratory for investigation of eventual cancer cells. Early prostate cancers usually do not cause symptoms, but more advanced cancers are sometimes first found because of symptoms they cause.
Traditional radiation therapy means delivery of irradiation to a tumour in the body over a period up to eight (8) weeks. Each day a so-called fraction is delivered to the tumour to destroy the tumor tissue. Healthy tissue will also be affected, but the aim is for it to recover before the next dose is delivered.
The radiation therapy has been significantly improved during the latest years. Image quality from MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and CT (Computed Tomography) are much better today. The linear accelerator (linac) that delivers the irradiation to the patient are much more refined. Today a linac is capable to modulate the beam that match the patient’s tumour very precisely. Other advancement is for instance patient immobilizations techniques that minimizes mistreatment due to patient movements.
And not at least; hypofractionated radiotherapy is being increasingly utilized as definite treatment option for prostate cancer; whereas higher irradiation doses are given in fewer number of treatment sessions (so called fractions). This can significantly eliminate weeks of the traditional treatment length with the possibility of fewer short term side effects and a better quality of life as result.