Cancer-free for 10 Years and Counting

For LeRoy Larson, retirement means a more relaxed lifestyle and more time for his many hobbies. A former systems analyst at IDS who lives with his wife in Chisago City, Minnesota, Larson stays active by fishing, playing golf, helping friends with home maintenance projects, cutting wood for his fireplace, and visiting his adult children who are scattered across the country.

So when Larson was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he wanted to find a treatment method with a short recovery time so he could get back to the things he enjoys.

An alternative method of treatment

Larson’s family physician referred him to the Institute for Prostate and Urologic Cancer (IPUC) and to Joseph Lee, M.D., a urologic surgeon and associate professor in the Department of Urology. Lee is an expert in cryotherapy, a treatment that eradicates cancer by freezing the prostate gland.

During cryotherapy, the patient is given anesthesia, and the surgeon then uses ultrasound to guide the insertion of extremely thin needles into the prostate. The needles produce sub-zero temperatures that freeze and destroy the entire prostate.

Cryotherapy is a good option for patients who want to avoid major surgery, Lee says. “The recovery rate from the procedure is very good, and there is minimal pain, since it is a minimally invasive procedure,” he says.

Living cancer-free

More than five years after Larson’s cryotherapy procedure, he reports that he is cancer-free and feeling fine, with the exception of the psychological effects of impotence, which is a common side effect of the treatment.

“The procedure itself went fine,” Larson says. “I don’t recall having much, if any, discomfort. Thinking about the procedure ahead of time, I was uncomfortable with the idea of someone using needles to treat me, but of the other available procedures, cryotherapy was the one with the least amount of recovery time needed before I could return to my usual activities.”

Larson, now 79, has annual follow-up appointments with Lee, who checks Larson’s prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels and asks about any urinary problems. Lee also checks the prostate for new tumors.

Lee says that Larson’s PSA levels are “steady,” which means that the prostate cancer is under control, as is expected in 80 percent of patients who undergo this procedure. Because Larson’s PSA levels have been low for five years, Lee says it is reasonable to expect at least another five years without recurrence of the cancer.

- Story courtesy University of Minnesota Foundation

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