Ultrasound-guided radioactive seed implantation in cancerous prostate glands is an effective method of treatment when early stage cancer is confined to the prostate. The procedure does not require surgical incision.
Tiny radioactive pellets, each smaller than a grain of rice, are precisely positioned in the prostate by passing a needle through the skin. The seeds contain radioactive Palladium 103 or Iodine 125. These give off x-ray energy that kills cancer cells. Healthy tissues also get a small dose of radiation. Seeds lose strength as months go by. They are no longer radioactive after one year.
Low rates of complications such as incontinence and impotence make this method appealing for those it is an option for. An eight-year Gundersen Health System study shows this outpatient procedure allows more rapid return to normal activities with fewer lasting side effects and no significant reduction of projected cure rates.
Radioactive seed implant therapy continues to show promise. Five years post-implant, more than 85 percent of survivors treated with this method at Gundersen are cancer-free.
Since 1996, Gundersen urologists and radiation oncologists had treated more than 1,000 prostate cancer patients with radioactive seed implants. Patients have been followed to determine the incidence of recurrence and mortality. Among 234 patients for whom five-year data is available, the following observations were made:
- 58 percent of the men had seed implants alone. They had an 88.3 percent cancer free survival at five years post implant.
- 42 percent of the men had seed implants and external beam radiation because their cancer was more advanced. Of these survivors, 85.6 were cancer-free five years after treatment.
- In this series there has been no known recurrence of cancer in the prostate gland.