CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A new tool that's considered one of the most significant advancements in prostate cancer treatment is now being used in Charlotte. It could literally mean the difference between life and death for many men.
The tool is called Prostate MRI and it's much like a mammogram used to diagnose breast cancer in women.
According to Dr. Chris Teigland of Charlotte's Levine Cancer Institute, " Where we're actually imaging prostates like mammograms used to image breasts. We're imaging prostates and we're only biopsying those lesions where they look like they're going to be clinically significant cancers."
Dr. Teigland is considered one of the leading prostate cancer experts in the United States.
He says the new trend in prostate cancer has moved toward trying to identify those patients who have clinically significant disease that needs to be treated, and trying not to treat those who don't need to be treated.
"The reason for that is that we've learned that a lot of the early low grade cancers that we were diagnosing in the 90s and 2000s really could be watched," Teigland said. "So we no longer operate on those very low risk or low risk patients. So we're only operating on more clinically significant cancers and watching the low risk cancers."
In another significant development, newly developed genetic analysis is allowing doctors to determine if a cancer is clinically significant.
Despite the advances in prostate cancer treatment, Dr. Teigland says early diagnosis is still key.
"We have a special problem in prostate cancer," he says, "and that is that many people that have it will not die of it. So we have to be really smart about who we treat. But the other side of the coin is that prostate cancer is still the second leading cancer killer in men, so it's a complex problem and it has a complex answer."
It's a sobering fact: one in seven men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime. The best way to treat it, is to get to it before it spreads.
Charlotte businessman and prostate cancer survivor Bruce Bowers has just returned from a trip overseas where he hiked 500 miles. Obviously he's done very well since having his cancerous prostate removed six years ago.
According to Bowers, "I really have been very blessed. To be able to go through that and to recover completely and to be able to go on the hike on the Camino, I just feel completely blessed in this whole process."
WBTV News director Dennis Milligan had his prostate removed eleven years ago and today remains cancer free.
"I'm very happy I did it. It was a slow growing cancer," he said. "And as my doctor said, 'it's not gonna kill you in five years, and it's not gonna kill you in ten, probably not in 15. But in 20 years from now it may be a big problem for you'."
Bowers says the best way to approach prostate issues is, "You need to be proactive. It's very important to be proactive."
Milligan agrees and adds, "Don't take it lightly. You don't need to wring your hands and you don't need to be afraid, but take it seriously."
It is recommended that any man 40 years or older have his prostate checked.
There are many websites where you can find more information on prostate cancer.