Ararat's Robert Howland experiences hypofractionation treatment course for prostate cancer in Ballarat

RESULT: Prostate cancer patient Robert Howland, from Ararat, has just finished the shorter, higher-dose radiotherapy treatment course at BAROC in half the time of standard treatment. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric
RESULT: Prostate cancer patient Robert Howland, from Ararat, has just finished the shorter, higher-dose radiotherapy treatment course at BAROC in half the time of standard treatment. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

UNSURE what to expect, Robert Howland had few qualms about being hit with a concentrated dose of radiotherapy over four weeks.

In half the time of standard treatment periods for prostate cancer, Mr Howland’s daily visits to his space age-looking treatment room were finished.

One week on, Mr Howland said he has still not experienced any side effects.

The 77-year-old made the daily commute from Ararat to undergo the new hypofractionation treatment course at Ballarat Austin Radiation Oncology Centre, which is part of Ballarat Regional Integrated Cancer Centre.

“Living not that far from Ballarat it was pretty easy to get here every day but I can imagine how much more this will benefit patients from further away, like Horsham,” Mr Howland said.

A look at how Mr Howland received his radiotherapy in concentrated daily doses in BAROC, a partnership between Ballarat Regional Integrated Cancer Centre and the Austin Hospital. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

A look at how Mr Howland received his radiotherapy in concentrated daily doses in BAROC, a partnership between Ballarat Regional Integrated Cancer Centre and the Austin Hospital. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

Mr Howland was initially put on a watch and wait list after showing borderline prostate-specific antigen levels for concern about 16 months ago. A biopsy signalled prostate cancer and Mr Howland opted for radiotherapy, saying he knew he would not beat the cancer by doing nothing.

BAROC radiation oncologist Jonathan Tomaszewski said prostate cancer was typically treated with daily doses over a number of weeks and international randomised studies had proven this way was still about maximising elimination of cancer cells safely while reducing side-effects.

BAROC radiation oncologist Jonathan Tomaszewski says international randomised studies had proven this way was still about maximising elimination of cancer cells safely while reducing side-effects. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

BAROC radiation oncologist Jonathan Tomaszewski says international randomised studies had proven this way was still about maximising elimination of cancer cells safely while reducing side-effects. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

The shorter, concentrated method has been proven just as safe and effective as the eight-week course for low and intermediate risk patients. Evidence is yet to back up the same for high risk patients.

“Prostate cancer is unique compared to other cancers in that’s its a lot more sensitive to larger doses of radiotherapy,” Dr Tomaszewski said. “So there’s an opportunity to increase the daily dose.”

Dr Tomaszewski said travel demands could sometimes influence decisions from regional patients about treatment options, but he said all prostate cancer patients benefit from discussing options with a surgeon and radiation oncologist.

“Radiation is often very appealing to older patients, particularly those not very fit for operation either,” Dr Tomaszewski said.

He said all men should discuss prostate cancer screening with their general practitioner.

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Finding benefits in daily walking

PROSTATE cancer patient Robert Howland says the daily walk from Ballarat Railway Station to the hospital was a vital factor in his treatment. 

Mr Howland, who catches the train from Ararat, has long enjoyed a good walk but make a conscious decision to keep up his walk amid radiotherapy.

A group of leading Australian cancer organisations this week became the first in the world to declare exercise should be prescribed as part of routine cancer care.

This follows a Deakin University report in 2015 that found men with prostate cancer were at high-risk of dying from other illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis, which may be prevented or reduced through exercise.

“Travelling from Ararat, I had the benefit of walking,” Mr Howland said. “That 15 to 20-minute walk also gave me time to think about things.”