During the month of November, awareness of men’s health issues is being encouraged throughout the world as men are invited to get health check-ups, with special attention given to a subject that we usually refrain from speaking about – prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer develops without symptoms; once pain appears, it is too late. That is why the only thing that can save one’s health – and oftentimes, one’s life – is going to a specialist for regular check-ups. Dr. Māris Mežeckis, a radiation oncologist at ‘Sigulda’ Stereotactic Radiosurgery Centre, explains: ‘Men should come for their first check-up at age 45. After 50, you should have a full physical examination yearly.’
Since 2015, ‘Sigulda’ Stereotactic Radiosurgery Centre has been using CyberKnife technology which, despite its name alluding to traditional surgery and cutting, requires no surgical intervention. CyberKnife is a robot that uses a high-precision radiation delivery system to treat cancer and benign tumours in various parts of the body without surgical intervention, and on an out-patient basis. This method is especially suited for patients who have inoperable or surgically complex tumors, or for whom surgery would pose a risk to their health or even life. CyberKnife produces an effect with precisely targeted ionising radiation, and without any surgical incisions.
No less important is the fact that the treatment is pain-free, and the patient can return to a normal rhythm of life almost immediately. CyberKnife is used not only in the treatment of prostate cancer, but also to treat tumours and metastases in the head, spine, liver, kidneys, lungs and other parts of the body. Over ten years of data confirm that, for patients with low and intermediate risk, the use of CyberKnife robotic radiosurgery is the most effective and safest, and also offers the least disruption to patients’ daily lives.
Radiosurgery has been used to treat patients since the 1990s, but the CyberKnife M6 system at the ‘Sigulda’ Stereotactic Radiosurgery Centre is the first – and currently, only – such treatment system in the Baltic States. The system is manufactured in the USA, and the newest model is currently available in Latvia, where the latest full-featured treatment planning system was integrated in September. ‘Radiosurgery is widely used around the world. CyberKnife is particularly effective in treating the early stages of prostate cancer. Recent multi-center studies prove its safety and efficacy for more than 97% of low- and intermediate-risk prostate cancer patients,’ explains Dr. Mežeckis. See more about prostate cancer treatment here.
What even is radiosurgery? It is a form of radiation therapy in which results are achieved without making any incisions – absolutely no traditional surgical interventions – but rather with strong, precisely targeted radiation. CyberKnife delivers a large dose of radiation very precisely, targeting only the affected tissues and completely avoiding nearby healthy tissues and cells. This is achieved by using special fiducial markers that guide the robot in aiming the radiation. Guided by an ultrasound machine, a needle inserts the markers (a thin gold seed) directly into the tissues or lymph nodes affected by the tumor. This needle is slightly thicker than a regular injection needle, and therefore may cause some slight discomfort, but anesthetics are unnecessary. Next, a computed tomography scan (CT Scan) and magnetic resonance imagining (MRI) find the precise locations of the gold seeds, and consequently, also the precise location of the tumour. ‘Radiosurgery is a localised form of treatment, which is why before the start of therapy, every patient is thoroughly examined to rule out any spreading of the tumour into the lymph nodes or elsewhere in the body. The procedure’s advantage is that it can be repeated, if deemed necessary,’ stresses Dr. Mežeckis.
Radiosurgery is usually the preferred method of treatment when the patient has fewer than four to five metastases, and it is still possible to gain improvements with localised methods. That is why it is important to have a health screening as early as possible, even if there are no obvious symptoms. ‘Your urologist will administer the prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test and a digital rectal examination. Incidentally, the PSA test is not expensive, and that’s why I encourage men to take the test even if they feel fine! What is terrible is when a person has just begun to really live, and suddenly health problems arise!’ Dr. Mežeckis emphasises.
Compared to other tumour treatment methods, CyberKnife has yet another advantage. ‘By including radiosurgery as a tactic in the treatment of metastases, we are trying to hold off the moment when the patient must go on hormone therapy,’ explains Dr. Mežeckis. Thanks to radiosurgery, both the biochemical and clinical development of cancer slows down. International studies have proven that hormone therapy can be delayed for an average of two to three years.
An important fact is that the CyberKnife treatment method lessens the quality of sexual health by only 10 – 15 %, and even this can be countered with medicine. Traditional radiation therapy radiates the pelvis 45 times at a low dose, whereas CyberKnife can achieve the desired effect after just 5 procedures – destroying the tumour and only minimally affecting surrounding healthy tissue.
To asses if the treatment process has been effective, the PSA level is measured, and then remeasured every 3 to 4 months. Usually, after the first three months, PSA levels have dropped 40-50%, or even more.
Currently, more than 45% of the patients treated with the CyberKnife system at ‘Sigulda’ Stereotactic Radiosurgery Centre have come from abroad. A large number have travelled from Lithuania, as well as from the Nordic countries and the UK, and some have come from as far as Brazil. In addition, the Clinic offers the unique opportunity for patients to receive a consultation with a specialist online. Patients can either call in or electronically send in their medical records and data, which will then be assessed by a specialist who will then determine if CyberKnife would be the most suitable treatment method in each respective case. A considerable number of patients take advantage of this opportunity – every month we receive up to 400 calls and 150 electronic applications.
The CyberKnife specialist team is prepared to assess each and every patient’s individual case, and then advise on the best possible solution that can be achieved through their professional expertise, the latest diagnostic methods, and treatment with CyberKnife non-invasive robotic cancer treatment technology.
To make an appointment for a consultation:
Tel: (+371) 20270077
Lakstīgalas iela 13, Sigulda, Latvia
Dr. Māris Mežeckis, a radiation oncologist at ‘Sigulda’ StereotacticRadiosurgery Centre