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Copyright 2000 St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Inc.  
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri)

November 28, 2000, Tuesday, FIVE STAR LIFT EDITION

SECTION: NEWS, Pg. A3

LENGTH: 487 words

HEADLINE: CANCER TREATMENT POSES LITTLE RISK TO RELATIVES, STUDY SAYS;
SOME PATIENTS RECEIVE RADIOACTIVE IMPLANTS TO TREAT PROSTATE CANCER;
DANGER FROM EXPOSURE IS MINIMAL

BYLINE: Andrew Skolnick; Special To The Post-Dispatch

DATELINE: CHICAGONEW CANCER TREATMENT; RESEARCH; STUDY; EXPERIMENT; FINDINGS RISK; BENEFITS; HEALTH; SCIENCE; MEDICINE; BRACHYTHERAPY CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

BODY:
Men who get radioactive implants to treat prostate cancer may breathe easier now that a Washington University study has found the treatment poses virtually no risk of harmful radiation doses to family members.

Some men have been concerned that the implanted radioactive "seeds" used to treat prostate cancer could expose spouses and other family members to harmful radiation, said Dr. Jeff M. Michalski, assistant professor of radiology at the Washington University School of Medicine.

The study found there are virtually no risks from radiation to family members of men undergoing the treatments.

"We can now tell a patient that the amount of extra radiation his spouse will get in one year is less than she would get from living in Denver for three or four months or taking a round-trip flight from New York to Tokyo," Michalski said. (Radiation from space is slightly more intense at higher altitudes.)

Michalski and his co-authors presented the findings of his study Monday at the 86th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago.

In the study, 40 men wore radiation measuring badges for three weeks. Their family members also wore badges while around the patients. Because patients occasionally express concern about radiation risk to their pets, the pet dogs of several patients also wore radiation badges in the study.

In the study, one spouse received the amount of extra radiation she would have received by flying round trip from New York to Tokyo. The a mount that some family members received was essentially zero, Michalski reported.

About 144,000 men are expected to be diagnosed this year with prostate cancer confined to the prostate gland. About 38,000 are expected to choose to be treated with radioactive seed implants. Another 80,000 are likely to opt for surgical removal of their prostate - a procedure that has much greater complication rates, side effects and much longer recovery time, Michalski said. The remainder of those diagnosed are expected to choose external radiation treatments.

The implant procedure, called brachytherapy, is done on an outpatient basis and involves inserting about 100 radioactive "seeds," smaller than rice grains, in and around the walnut-size prostrate gland.

Surgical removal of the prostate, however, usually requires four or five days of hospitalization and another four to six weeks of recovery.

Studies show that about 78 percent of men treated with brachytherapy are cancer-free 10 years after treatment - about the same survival rate for patients treated by surgery. However, there is much less risk for sexual impotency or urinary incontinence with brachytherapy, Michalski said.

Two men from the St. Louis area who were in the study, Loy Ledbetter and Gerald Cohen, said that neither they nor their family members were concerned about radiation risks from their treatment.

LOAD-DATE: November 28, 2000




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