Seed implantation treatment is still not widely used to fight prostate cancer.
The 'seeds' used in brachytherapy are tiny, 5-by-0.8 mm warheads that work inside tumors to kill cancer cells. Dr. Haakon Ragde of Northwest Hospital in Seattle performed the first U.S. seed treatment in 1985. Today he estimates about 5 percent of patients for which it is an option choose it - up from 3.5 percent a few years ago.
The method is best used when the cancer has not spread outside the prostate. Ragde said the one-time procedure is 'as effective as the best surgical results, it's cheaper, and there are less complications.' Most patients can resume an active life almost immediately.
Other standard options for patients with cancer that has not spread outside the prostate include radical surgery and external beam radiation. Yet these often result in impotence and/or incontinence. Of the three methods, Dr. Arthur Porter of Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit said implantation appears to have the least chance of causing these side effects while offering identical survival rates.
More information is available from Northwest Hospital at www.prostatecancer.org or 888-NWH-SEED.