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MADISON, Wis. – Thanks to a new program at UW Health, some patients with prostate cancer now have access to more precise diagnosis and treatment options.
In spring 2022, UW Health began offering prostate cancer procedures that take place within a magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, scanner.
The prostate program consists of two procedures, according to Dr. Erica Knavel Koepsel, interventional radiologist, UW Health, and assistant professor of radiology, UW School of Medicine and Public Health. The first is MRI-guided biopsies, where a small amount of tissue is abstracted from the prostate to diagnose and determine the stage of the cancer, and the second is prostate cryoablation, which is a minimally invasive technique that involves placement of needles into the prostate which can freeze and kill cancer cells.
“When using an MRI scanner for these procedures, we can visualize the tumor directly and visualize the treatment in precise detail,” she said.
Traditionally, MRI scanners are used by radiologists to create medical imaging that can be observed to assist with the diagnosis of injury and disease, but it is much less common to perform procedures within the scanner.
UW Health is the only health system in Wisconsin offering cryoablation for the prostate and one of only a few in the country to perform this procedure, according to Dr. David Jarrard, deputy director, UW Carbone Cancer Center, and professor of urology, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
“We’re very lucky to be able to offer this to patients,” he said.
Traditional treatment for prostate cancer includes surgery, often the removal of the entire prostate, as well as radiation, hormonal therapy and chemotherapy. These therapies can require multiple appointments and might result in side effects such as erectile dysfunction and incontinence.
“With cryoablation, we are treating half the prostate or even just the area that contains prostate cancer,” Knavel Koepsel said. “Performing cryoablation in this way reduces the risk of common side effects and usually only requires one night in the hospital.”
Patients who have intermediate-risk prostate cancer and wish to avoid invasive surgery or are not satisfied with active prostate cancer surveillance are the best candidates to be part of this program, according to Knavel Koepsel.
Prostate cancer is the second-most common cancer after breast cancer, with 13% of men estimated to be diagnosed with it at some point in their lifetime and an estimated 288,300 new cases diagnosed in the United States in 2023, according to the National Cancer Institute.