Singapore, 15 January 2024 – Singapore General Hospital (SGH) has introduced a new treatment to target prostate cancer cells using an electric current.

The procedure known as Irreversible Electroporation (IRE) therapy is performed under ultrasound guidance where two to four thin probes are inserted through the skin between the anus and scrotum to reach the tumour in the prostate. A generator is then connected to the probes, sending 80 to 90 short electrical pulses, to kill the cancer.

IRE is a form of focal therapy that precisely targets small prostate cancers for destruction without damaging surrounding structures that govern sexual and urinary function. It is suitable for selected early-stage prostate cancer patients with a tumour not bigger than 1.5cm and especially those located near the urethra. The procedure is performed under general anaesthesia and takes around an hour. In most cases, patients can be discharged on the same day. As the prostate will swell for a few days after the procedure, patients will be fitted with a catheter to help them urinate.

“Irreversible Electroporation (IRE) therapy does sound quite scary. It is, however, a safe and effective option for prostate cancer patients who were previously deemed not suitable when we first introduced focal cryotherapy in Singapore in 2019. Focal cryotherapy, which freezes the cancer at minus 40⁰C, is more suited for the outer area of the prostate but up to half of cancers occur in the central area of the prostate. With the inclusion of focal IRE, there is more comprehensive treatment for cancer in all locations within the prostate to provide personalized care for our patients,” said Dr Tay Kae Jack, Senior Consultant, Department of Urology, SGH.

Prostate cancer is now the leading cancer among men, overtaking colorectal cancer. According to the latest Singapore Cancer Registry numbers, there were about 7,000 newly diagnosed cases of prostate cancer between 2017 and 2021, up from about 5,000, between 2013 and 2017.

Besides prostate cancer, the Urology Department, which celebrated its 35th anniversary last week, has also seen many patients with prostate-related problems such as benign prostate hyperplasia (enlarged prostate gland) over the past five years. They form over 40 per cent of the patient load at SGH Urology Centre.

The SGH Prostate Centre was thus set up in March this year to provide one stop service to better manage and care for these patients. It provides dedicated resources, allowing the multidisciplinary care team to explore new treatments such as IRE and cryotherapy, and to offer a comprehensive suite of clinical services specifically for prostate-related conditions. 

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