Schedule Now Pay Bill
be_ixf;ym_202407 d_18; ct_50

Beacon patient overcomes prostate cancer after minimally invasive treatment option

John Palmer

John Palmer has a neighbor who recently died of prostate cancer. And a friend who died of prostate cancer last year. And yet another friend who was diagnosed with prostate cancer and is currently fighting for his life.

Palmer, too, was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Back in 2020, the results of a routine screening led to a biopsy that was positive for cancer. His oncologist at the time recommended external beam radiation therapy.

A friend suggested he see Dr. David Hornback, a radiation oncologist with Beacon Medical Group Oncology.

“So I did, and I liked him really well,” Palmer said. Dr. Hornback took plenty of time to discuss treatment options and answer his questions, even bringing out a board to draw on at one point, to help explain the treatments.

They discussed external beam radiation, but Dr. Hornback felt John would also be a very good candidate for the prostate seed procedure. During this procedure, the physician uses needles to insert tiny radioactive “seeds” – each smaller than a grain of rice – directly into the prostate. The radiation kills the cancer cells. And because the material used doesn’t remain radioactive for very long, the seeds never need to be removed.

Weighing the options to fight his cancer

Prostate seed implants have been around for decades. Originally they were considered a safer alternative to more traditional external beam radiation treatments.

Over the years, external beam treatments have advanced considerably and use special techniques known as “intensity modulated radiation therapy” (IMRT). With these improvements, they are considered equally as safe and effective for most patients.

Choosing between IMRT external beam radiation therapy and prostate seed implants is often based on symptoms the male patient may be experiencing, the size of his prostate or simple personal preference. Problems with urination and a high risk of disease outside the prostate are reasons that prostate seed implants may not be the best option for a particular patient.

In Palmer’s case, his medical history, lower-risk prostate cancer and minimal symptoms made him a good candidate for prostate seeds. He also liked the fact that the implants are much more convenient, requiring fewer hospital visits compared to external beam radiation.

Because prostate cancer tends to develop slowly, and Palmer’s cancer had been caught early, immediate treatment was not needed. Nevertheless, the diagnosis increasingly weighed on his mind as time passed.

After a couple of years, Palmer was ready to do something about it.

“Every morning I’d wake up and say to myself, ‘I have cancer and I haven’t done anything about it and it’s driving me crazy,’” he recalled. “The thought of one or two cancer cells getting loose and going somewhere else … I don’t want this in my body anymore.”

So he called Dr. Hornback and said, “Doc, can we go kill this?

Dr. David Hornback

Beacon doctor specializes in procedure

Dr. Hornback is currently the only health care provider in the region performing prostate seed implants, and he recently completed his 200th procedure.

“It’s a bit of an art,” he said. “Certainly you want to have this procedure performed by a physician who has quite a few under their belt.”

He begins by evaluating the patient, then does a pre-implant imaging study to determine how many seeds the patient needs and exactly where they should be placed. There are no incisions; needles are used to place the tiny radioactive seeds into the prostate during a single outpatient procedure under general anesthesia, which generally takes about 90 minutes.

In comparison, treatment with external beam radiation involves three to six weeks of treatments with five visits a week to the radiation oncology center. That makes prostate seed implants an appealing option for someone who doesn’t live close to a radiation oncology center or doesn’t want to disrupt their schedule over time.

“Prostate seeds offer more convenience and are more cost effective, without sacrificing outcomes,” Dr. Hornback said. “I think for appropriately selected patients it’s an excellent option, one I hope continues to be available to patients for years to come.”

Short recovery, back to life quicker

Palmer went through with the procedure last fall, having 77 prostate seeds implanted.

“You think you’d be sore, but I wasn’t,” he said. “It was a piece of cake. I had no pain afterwards. I didn’t even take Tylenol that night.”

He got a ride home from the hospital the same day, and by the following day, he was out and about again. “It’s just a very easy procedure. There’s really no downtime,” Palmer said.

The whole experience went smoothly thanks to the great care he received from Dr. Hornback and his staff.

“I think the world of Dr. Hornback. I would have to put him up there as one of my favorites,” Palmer said. “The thing I love about him is the fact that he explains everything to you. He wants you to know what’s going on, and that’s half the battle. The whole group down there, I can’t say enough about them.”

Today, Palmer’s PSA tests – the same blood test used to originally screen for prostate cancer – are showing that he’s back in the normal range. He’s feeling good.

Looking back, he’s thankful his cancer was caught early. Palmer is well aware that for American men, prostate cancer is the most common cancer and the second leading cause of death. He wishes more men would get screened for prostate cancer so that it can be caught early and treated before it spreads.

If he can get a few people to go in and get checked that normally wouldn’t, Palmer knows he could be saving someone’s life.

“It’s just a blood test. It’s real simple,” he said. “It’s not a big deal. Go get it done.”