Articles for Our Patients ~ Y.S. Ram Rao, M.D., Medical Director

Winning the Battle of Prostate Cancer

Author: Y.S. Ram Rao, M.D., Medical Director • Language: ENG

I’ve been a practicing radiation oncologist since 1978. During these over 30 years in practice I have treated hundreds of prostate cancer patients and witnessed the exciting evolution of radiation treatment modalities and early detection testing advances associated with prostate cancer.

In my early years of practice, the majority of men were diagnosed at an advanced stage of prostate cancer, from which many of them died. Over the past 15 years the tide has turned and we are now diagnosing prostate cancer at earlier stages due to the advent of annual screening, which includes a prostatic specific antigen (PSA) blood test that accompanies an annual digital rectal exam for all men starting at age 50 and at 40 for men at high risk. Heightened physician and public awareness to the importance of screening and early detection for all men has helped insure appropriate testing and subsequent early detection.

In addition to diagnosing at an earlier stage, huge technological advances in the areas of high speed computers (treatment planning systems), miniaturization (multi-leaf collimators), cross sectional imaging (CT & MRI) and radiation therapy equipment (IMRT & IGRT) are allowing us to deliver higher doses of radiation in a more precise manner. As a result of these higher finely targeted radiation doses, more men than ever are cured of prostate cancer with fewer side effects utilizing radiation therapy modalities.

Even in locally advanced and metastatic cancers, quality of life and survival are improving with the addition of hormonal and hemotherapeutic agents. Looking back to the late ’70s and early ’80s, prostate cancer patients were treated with high energy x-rays, as they are being treated now, but focusing precisely on the cancer was not feasible. Therefore, the total dose of radiation we delivered was restricted resulting in a limited number of cures. We used these lower doses of radiation to keep the unwanted side effects low and manageable.

During this era patients were also treated utilizing interstitial radioactive material implantation (brachytherapy) techniques resulting in better control rates and less complications compared to external beam radiation, but the techniques were first generation as compared to those available 2005. With the evolution of CT scan technology and CT based radiation treatment planning, the new methods of delivering radiation, like 3-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT) and intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) evolved. Also, the development of ultrasound equipment specially designed to guide interstitial implants during the operative procedure allow for more precise placement of the radioactive sources resulting in even better dose distributions and overall results.

Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center is in the forefront of technology by acquiring state-of-the-art equipment like intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and image guided radiation therapy (IGRT) to provide the best possible radiation treatment outcomes for our patients. Thanks to these new technologies, we are delivering higher doses of radiation more precisely to the tumors, resulting in less damage to normal tissue and ultimately better cancer cure and control rates. When there is less damage to normal tissue there are less unwanted side effects to deal with and an overall better quality of life.

Other added benefits for our prostate cancer patients at The Robert and Beverly Lewis Family Cancer Care Center are the unique array of support services we offer. Not only is there a Prostate Cancer Support Group facilitated by a Nurse, there are many other support groups and wellness activities for our patients and their families to select from during their cancer journey. The Center also hosts a Patient Library located at the front of the building loaded with educational brochures, magazines, books, videos and an internet connection for all your oncology research needs. The library is staffed by knowledgeable and helpful Oncology Volunteers to assist visitors on their information quest. Cancer detection and treatment has come a long way during the past 25 years.

PVHMC is committed to securing new technologies for the Radiation Oncology Department as we partner with our patients during their daily fight against all cancers including prostate cancer. The physicians and associates of The Robert and Beverly Lewis Family Cancer Care Center are privileged to offer a progressive and successful Prostate Cancer Treatment Program to the community we serve.
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