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First patient for new prostate treatment

17 January 2012

Health Care

When Andy Fawkes was given a clean bill of health following a check-up with his GP, he was pleased but not surprised.

The active 52-year-old is a keen kite surfer and windsurfer and also lists scuba diving amongst his hobbies.

But his mother urged him to make sure the check had included a prostate test, as his 76-year-old father had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Andy, who runs his own engineering company, said: "I assumed it had been included in the screening. But my doctor told me that there was no real need for a check at my age."

However, after explaining his father had been diagnosed, Andy was tested - and then quickly called in for a biopsy when his PSA (prostate specific antigen) reading was high. The cancer diagnosis was confirmed - but fortunately it had been caught early.

As a result - and because of his age and general level of fitness - Andy was offered a new form of intense treatment - high dose brachytherapy.SouthendUniversityHospitalis one of only about 10 centres in theUK- and the only one inEssex- to offer it, and Andy was its first patient.

It consists of a short course of conventional external beam radiotherapy followed by a single session of brachytherapy, where high-level doses of radiotherapy using Iridium 192, a radioactive material, are precisely targeted at the affected area.  It involves meticulous pre-planning on the computer to ensure that the needles carrying the sealed Iridium source are inserted into the exact position in the prostate.  The treatment takes just 15 to 20 minutes.

Dr Imtiaz Ahmed, clinical lead and consultant clinical oncologist, said: "By using this technique we can target much higher doses precisely into the prostate area while minimising side effects and damage to adjacent organs.

"We feel it is something we should offer to our patients as one of a range of treatment options for prostate cancer.  Owing to more awareness and the availability of diagnostic tests, more and more young men are getting diagnosed.

"This treatment is available for high-risk patients where the cancer has not spread and we hope to treat at least 30 patients a year from all overEssexand beyond."

Andy, who is now urging other men to be tested for prostate cancer, said: "Everyone at the hospital has been fabulous. I cannot speak highly enough of the team that treated me. Because the cancer was bordering on other organs, Dr Ahmed suggested the treatment, which can hopefully cure the cancer.

" The idea of having needles inserted there is not something I relished, but everyone was so professional I did not feel anxious at all, and it was less uncomfortable than you would imagine. I would recommend it to anyone.

"I left hospital the following day, went back to work almost immediately and three weeks later went kite surfing."