By Jonathan Kaupanger

Veterans with moderate to aggressive forms of prostate cancer are now traveling to VA’s McGuire Medical Center in Richmond, VA to receive treatment. This minimally invasive procedure can be done in one day, allowing veterans to get on with their lives.

Prostate cancer is the second most common form of cancer among American men. The most common form of treatment for this cancer is external beam radiation.  This treatment takes anywhere from six to nine weeks and involves treatments five days per week.

The therapy offered at McGuire is much better, it’s called brachytherapy.

Brachytherapy has been around at McGuire since 1997 and it works by implanting radiated material called seeds directly into the prostate.  They can be left in for a short time with a high-dose rate or when using the low-dose rate the seeds are left in the prostate permanently and will work for up to a year.  The high-dose seeds are removed after about 30 minutes and may need to be given more than once.

gettyimages 53402486 Virginia is for lovers and prostate cancer treatment

Dr. Katsuto Shinohara (R) and Dr. Surat Dhonsombat look at a video monitor as they perform a bracytherapy operation on a man with prostate cancer at the UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center August 17, 2005 in San Francisco, California.  (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Research shows that brachytherapy is safer for the patient and reduces recovery time. “What we offer is access to high-quality treatment of prostate cancer with minimal side effects and recovery period,” said Dr. Drew Moghanaki, who leads McGuire’s brachytherapy program.

“Many veterans prefer to stay within the VA, “Said Moghanaki. “We make that happen.  It increases access for veterans in areas where the VA doesn’t offer radiation services onsite.  We’re leaving no man behind.”

Since the VA has a national presence, if a veterans local VA medical center doesn’t offer brachytherapy, they can travel to McGuire for the state-of-the-art treatment. And often the process starts with the help of VA’s telehealth system.

A nurse practitioner at McGuire contacts the veteran using video chat. Once it’s decided that a patient is eligible for the program, the nurse practitioner takes the veteran through the intake process, still using telehealth.  After that, a social worker steps in to help arrange transportation to Virginia and McGuire Medical Center.

After the patient returns home, the staff at his local medical center has access to all the information at McGuire and can follow up with anything needed. McGuire performs about 100 brachytherapy procedures each year.

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