Treatment helps reduce prostate cancer waiting list

Raising awareness in Mens Health Awareness Month, from left, founder of the Mens Foundation, Garron Gsell , Project Peacock co-founder and urologist, Dr Justin Howlett, and Jacob Abrahams, who underwent successful low dose rate (LDR) brachytherapy treatment at Groote Schuur Hospital.

A medical treatment at Groote Schuur Hospital is giving hope to men with prostate cancer.

The procedure, which was discussed at a Men’s Health Awareness Month event at the hospital last month, is championed by Project Peacock, a non-profit co-founded in 2017 by Dr Justin Howlett, a Groote Schuur urologist.

“It is an initiative to help decrease the waiting list for prostate cancer patients who come for low dose rate (LDR) brachytherapy treatment through Groote Schuur Hospital,” he said.

Dr Howlett says LDR brachytherapy is inserting low dose rate “seeds” of radioactive material in the prostate, giving radiation therapy from inside the body instead of through an external beam.

“These seeds are made specifically for the patient. We get them made in America, and when we implant them, the advantages are that instead of having five and a half weeks of radiotherapy, they come in one day and go home the next day,” he said.

“This project allows us to create extra operating days, because we have the funding for extra staff, like nurses and anaesthetists.”

Jacob Abrahams, 68, from Kenwyn, was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the beginning of the year. He underwent LDR brachytherapy in April.

“I was devastated when I heard that I have prostate cancer and told the doctor that I would never want to hear that kind of thing,” he said.

Mr Abrahams went to Groote Schuur Hospital for one day for LDR brachytherapy.

“I am feeling much better and went home the next day,” he said.

Dr Howlett says this form of treatment is an alternative to removing the prostate and there is far less damage from the radiation to the surrounding organs than other treatment options avail-
able.

Garron Gsell, founder of the Men’s Foundation, which manages the Movember campaign, says they’re considering funding Project Peacock. “We knew it can increase the life expectancy of men, but it had another support function as it was used to train other doctors in the surgical procedures in LDR brachytherapy.”

Mr Gsell says it is a relatively new form of treatment which is not practised widely in state hospi-
tals.