“I’m going to have seeds, radioactive seeds implanted,” he said on Smart Talk.
These radioactive seeds are little metal pellets that contain radioactive material. The pellets stay permanently, but the radioactivity, which targets rapidly dividing cancer cells and not nearby normal tissue, slowly decays away over several months.
“With the seed implant, we’re putting the radioactive material right where the cancer is,” says Allegheny Health Network radiation oncologist Dr. Russell Fuhrer.
Generally, this treatment is reserved for people with non-aggressive cancer limited to the gland itself, and a PSA [prostate specific antigen] level of less than 10 — a blood test for the prostate, the walnut-shaped organ that produces the fluid that carries sperm.
“If a patient is going to have a seed implant alone for prostate cancer, what can be inferred is that it’s an early stage prostate cancer, very unlikely to have spread elsewhere in the body, very unlikely to have even spread much outside the prostate,” says Dr. Fuhrer.
Depending on the size of the prostate, 40 to 80 seeds are placed, with the help of computer modeling.
“In the operating room, under a general anesthetic, the procedure itself takes between a half an hour and an hour,” Dr. Fuhrer describes.
It’s a same day procedure, done under ultrasound guidance. The seeds are injected into the prostate through the perineum, the skin just under the scrotum.
“We make sure there are no seeds in the bladder, which is a very, very rare occurrence,” says Dr. Fuhrer.
The procedure can irritate the prostate and the bladder.
“Urinary frequency, and urgency, getting up more at night, that can last for several months is far and away the most common side effect,” he adds.
For an early stage cancer, between 90 and 95 percent of patients are cured with this treatment.
“It definitely has the highest likelihood of maintaining erectile function, compared to surgery, compared to external beam radiation, and compared to really any treatment for prostate cancer,” Dr. Fuhrer says.