YOUR HEALTH: Protecting a man’s health during prostate treatment

FREEHOLD, New Jersey – John Schroeder officiates track and cross country meets for kids in his hometown.

At 66, this former high school athlete places a premium on staying active and healthy.

Several years ago, a routine PSA test indicated John's levels were higher than normal.   Doctors confirmed he had prostate cancer.

"And they kept saying 'You're a young guy, you should have surgery'," said John.   "And I kept thinking, 'I'm a young guy, why do I want to buy Depends the rest of my life? Why do I want to have erectile dysfunction?'"

John also struggled with ulcerative colitis which could be aggravated by radiation treatments.   That's when John learned about a new FDA-approved hydrogel to protect delicate tissue.

It's a called spaceoar.

Radiation oncologists mix the liquid gel with an accelerant.

In an office or outpatient setting, doctors inject the gel near the prostate. It solidifies in the body and creates a space between the prostate and delicate tissue.

"Having the gel move the rectum away from the prostate significantly lowers the dose of radiation that the rectal tissues get," said radiation oncologist Dr. Edward Soffen.

That means a reduction in side effects like bleeding, pain, and incontinence.   The gel stays in place in the body for three months and then dissolves and is excreted naturally.

For John, the spaceoar kept him on his feet and free of side effects during radiation and after.

TREATMENT: Depending on each case, treatment for prostate cancer may include surgery, watching and waiting or active surveillance, radiation therapy, cryotherapy or cryosurgery, hormone therapy, and even chemotherapy.  Sometimes even vaccine treatment or bone-directed treatment can be used.   Generally these are all used one at a time, but in some cases they may be combined.   It's important to discuss all of your personal treatment options, including side effects and end goals.  Some things to consider may be the stage or grade of your cancer, your age and expected life span, any other serious health conditions you have, and even the likelihood that the treatment will cure your cancer or help it in some other way.   You may want to seek a second or multiple opinions.  (Source: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/treating.html)

Right now, the spaceoar hydrogel is covered by Medicare on a case-by-case basis.

Dr. Soffen says he is hoping insurance carriers will expand coverage of the procedure.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.