Major milestone reached in the treatment of prostate cancer in Galway University Hospital

Last month the Radiation Oncology team in the Galway University Hospital (GUH ) marked a major milestone in the treatment of prostate cancer as the 1,000th patient underwent prostate seed implantation at the hospital.

Prostate seed implantation is a type of radiation therapy in which tiny radioactive metallic seeds are surgically placed inside the prostate gland. This treatment (also known as brachytherapy ) delivers a high dose of radiation directly to the prostate.

The seeds are smaller than a grain of rice and they release radiation slowly over a number of months to destroy prostate cancer cells.

This specific treatment for prostate cancer commenced in GUH in 2007 and at the time GUH was the first public hospital in Ireland to provide the service. Since then, over 1,000 men from across the west and north west have benefitted from this minimally invasive, day case procedure.

Dr Cormac Small, Consultant Radiation Oncologist at GUH, outlines the advantages of prostate seed implantation as an alternative to traditional radiotherapy, saying; “With External Beam Radiotherapy a prostate patient would need an average of 20 to 30 sessions. That means travelling to hospital, every day for a number of weeks to complete the treatment regime. We see patients from all over the region and travel has a huge impact, especially for those travelling long distances daily from Sligo, Mayo or Donegal for example.

“A major benefit of prostate seed therapy is that it is carried out as a day case procedure, meaning patients come to the hospital in the morning, have the procedure and are discharged home that evening. Seed implantation is highly effective and can eliminate cancer completely, however it is not suitable for all patients.”

Chris Kane, Hospital Manager at GUH, added; “This is a significant milestone for the Radiation Oncology team who have worked extremely hard over recent years to expand and enhance the cancer treatment options we can provide to patients.”

The treatment is carried out in the new state of the art Radiation Oncology Unit in GUH which opened last year and is a major component of Saolta’s Cancer Programme. Investment in staffing, technology and infrastructure ensures that patients from all over the west and north west are receiving the highest standards of care and are supported and empowered while on their cancer journey.

Dr Small is encouraging all men to be aware of prostate health; “Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed invasive cancer in men in Ireland. Over 3,800 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year and while men of any age can be affected, it is most common in those aged 50 and over. The good news is that outcomes for prostate cancer are very good, nine out of ten people with prostate cancer will be alive ten years after diagnosis.”

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