An emerging treatment for prostate cancer is offering a gentler way for patients. It’s about reducing, even eliminating, what can be significant symptoms for men who have their prostate removed or radiated. Local doctors have spent a decade honing a less-invasive technique and it is welcome news for men who may avoid treatment due to potentially debilitating side effects.

Tony Romano says he’s living one of the best chapters of his life.

“I have three grandsons so spend a lot of time with them,” he said.

Time with family is even more precious after the retired English teacher’s 2021 prostate cancer diagnosis. 

“The PSA numbers kept going higher so when they got to about nine, I opted to have my prostate removed entirely,” he said. “But there were some complications so in the middle of the surgery they had to stop.”

The plot twist meant prolonged problems.

“I was having some problems, voiding which is a polite way of saying peeing,” he said.

But ultimately led him down a different treatment path.

“I didn’t know about focal therapy at that point,” he said.

Urologic oncologist Dr Sri Vourganti has been working on gentler prostate cancer techniques for a decade.

“We really believe there is a new, responsible way of doing it,” he said. “When you remove a prostate or irradiate it or anything that can impact cancer, it can really impact both your urinary quality of life and your sexual quality of life no matter how careful we are.”

What’s called “focal urology” aims to eliminate or greatly reduce the side effects. Advancements in imaging drive the science.

“We have MRIs. We have new pics we use and we have specialized biopsy techniques where it tracks our needle in real time,” Vourganti said.

Vourganti likens the approach to a lumpectomy for breast cancer patients. He showed us how it works in the Rush Hospital simulation lab.

Instead of removing the entire gland, probes target a single lesion and emit electricity to destroy only the cancerous cells in the prostate.

“We use very high voltage electricity to overwhelm the cell’s ability to maintain its cell wall. It pokes tiny little holes in the cell’s wall and it dies,” Vourganti said. “The best candidate has exactly one lesion and they have cancer that is not low risk and not high risk, but an intermediate risk and it’s just in that area.”

“It seemed too good to be true,” Romano said. “It was a single treatment. I’d go home with a catheter for about three or four days. There were no complications no side effects and I got my life back.”

In Romano case, a recent biopsy and bloodwork checked out. The 66-year-old got the all clear. A recent study noted an 89 percent rate of freedom from cancer six to nine months post treatment.

“Huge relief off my shoulders to be cancer free and not have any side effects,” Romano said.

If patients have a recurrence down the road, they can repeat the focal procedure.

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