Munson Healthcare First to Offer Innovative Pre-treatment for Prostate Cancer Radiation Therapy


Munson Healthcare announced today it is the first hospital system in northern Michigan to offer an innovative treatment shown in clinical studies to help prostate cancer patients avoid some of the negative effects of radiation therapy. 

In September, Munson Medical Center treated its first patient with SpaceOAR Vue™ Hydrogel, the only FDA-cleared spacer to help reduce the radiation dose delivered to the rectum in men undergoing prostate cancer radiation therapy. SpaceOAR Vue Hydrogel offers visibility under a CT scan, which the standard SpaceOAR Hydrogel does not. 

“The introduction of SpaceOAR Vue Hydrogel as a pre-treatment option demonstrates Munson Healthcare’s commitment to providing the latest innovations in radiation therapy,” said David Heimburger, M.D., medical director for radiation oncology at Cowell Family Cancer Center. “This treatment has shown to effectively lower the risk of radiation side effects such as sexual dysfunction, incontinence, and bowel discomfort from one man in ten to one in fifty. The ability to utilize CT imaging allows us to expand this pre-treatment procedure to patients with implanted devices, such as pacemakers, for whom MRI imaging is not an option.” 

Because of the proximity of the rectum and prostate, prostate radiation therapy can cause unintended damage to the rectum, which can lead to rectal bleeding, bowel discomfort, or other long-lasting side effects. Placed through a needle, SpaceOAR Hydrogel is administered as a liquid between the prostate and the rectum. The product quickly solidifies into a soft gel that expands the space and pushes the rectal wall away from the high-dose radiation area. The hydrogel stays in place for about three months. After about six months, the hydrogel is naturally absorbed into the body and removed through the urine.

According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men, with more than 183,000 new cases diagnosed each year. More than 60,000 American men opt to treat their prostate cancer with radiation every year.

Despite the challenges of COVID-19, screenings for prostate and other cancers remain an important part of routine healthcare. Northern Michigan residents are urged to schedule routine screenings and discuss family history with their primary care providers. 

“To provide the most effective and least invasive cancer treatments, early diagnosis of a cancer is one of the most important factors,” Dr. Heimburger said. “Unfortunately we’re seeing an uptick in late-stage cancer diagnoses as patients delay their care. Don’t be afraid of routine screenings or a treatment’s side effects. Our facilities are still the safest places to be and avoiding routine screenings certainly does more long-term harm. Please make sure to get screened.”