Laser-Targeted Removal of Prostate Tumors Works as Well as the Complete Removal of the Prostate

One question we often hear at Cancer ABCs is about the efficacy of laser targeted removal of cancerous tissue from the prostate gland as opposed to removing the entire gland.  Recently described research from Dr. Eric Walser who is at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston has shown that selectively destroying cancerous prostate tissue inside of the prostate gland can be as effective as the removal of the entire prostate gland.  

The research also confirmed that using targeted laser removal better preserves sexual and urinary function than removing the entire gland. This study is currently available in the Journal of Vascular and Interventional Radiology. 

The goal of screening is to detect prostate cancer while it remains entirely within the gland.  When it is discovered and is still within the prostate gland and more aggressive treatments such as removing the entire prostate or using radiation therapy it often results in difficulty with urinary and sexual functions. 

Walser’s research indicates that using a less invasive method of targeting and removing only the cancerous prostate tissue called focal laser ablation (FLA) a man has very a quicker recovery and has less pain. He also found that the laser procedure better preserves erectile and urinary functions. 

 "FLA offers men more peace of mind than active surveillance or 'watchful waiting,' the traditional alternative to radical treatment," said Walser. "FLA pairs MRI imaging to identify cancer-suspicious areas in the prostate and advanced laser technology to remove it completely, with virtually no risk of impotence or incontinence." 

 His research included evaluating 120 men with low- to intermediate-risk prostate cancer treated with FLA.  He reported that 17 percent of the treated men needed additional cancer treatment after one year with no noticeable change in the quality of life or urinary function. 

 In a small group of men who underwent a more aggressive FLA, only 6 percent had evidence of cancer one year later. However, these men all noticed a significant drop in sperm count. 

 "Other studies have shown that after completely removing the prostate, 15 to 30 percent of patients have a cancer recurrence within 5 to 10 years of surgery," Walser said. "Although FLA doesn't yet have such long-term data, this technique may ultimately provide similar cancer control while better preserving quality of life."