Prostate care has a major breakthrough
INCONTINENCE is a very nasty potential side-effect of prostate cancer treatment.
However, a revolutionary new method of protecting patients by literally pushing their sensitive areas away from the path of cancer-killing radiation, promises to change all that.
Specialists insert a cartilage-like gel via a machine - called a transperineal probe - between the prostate and the anus, reducing the risk of bowel damage.
North Coast Cancer Institute director Professor Tom Shakespeare noted that the gel had reduced the chances of serious side effects to virtually nothing.
"It's still relatively early days, but there's no doubt it reduces side effects during treatment," Professor Shakespeare said.
"I haven't had one patient with a significant bowel side effect since we've done it."
The treatment sounds simple, but it's not cheap.
The costs for your average public patient add up to $5000. And even then, the closest place to have the procedure done is on the Gold Coast.
Thankfully, there's a campaign afoot to change this.
Spearheaded by North Coast Cancer Institute director Professor Tom Shakespeare, alongside local advocacy group Crackin' Cancer and the North Coast Prostrate Cancer Group, the campaign has already raised $19,000 of its target of $34,000 to buy a transperineal probe for Lismore Base Hospital.
The machine costs $68,000, but the Northern NSW Local Health District has offered to go dollar for dollar on the deal.
One of the most significant contributions came from the Rotary Club of Lismore, whose hard work slaving over the hot plates at their North Coast National sausage sizzle managed to raise $6000.
Member Brian Wheatley said the club agreed unanimously to support the campaign.
"We've had members of our club and friends of members who have dealt with prostate cancer and had they been able to use the probe it would have made their treatment much more comfortable," he said.
Getting a probe for Lismore Base Hospital would cut the costs of treatment down to about $2000, but a tandem campaign is lobbying Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton to get the remainder covered under Medicare.
Led by Crackin' Cancer founder Marshall Fittler, the campaign is also seeking to list MRI procedures for prostate cancer diagnosis, which currently cost between $400 to $1200 under Medicare.
MRIs have been used for the best part of a decade on every patient with prostate cancer to ensure that radiation treatment is safely targeted.