Research could allow doctors to hear tumours

UPEI researcher Bill Whelan is using light and sound to detect prostate tumours.
UPEI researcher Bill Whelan is using light and sound to detect prostate tumours.

A UPEI professor is looking at using new techniques in prostate cancer research, which could eventually eliminate the need to remove the prostate when cancer is found.

Bill Whelan works in the university's physics department and is researching a technique that will use light and sound to find, treat, and monitor prostate cancer.

"The research that we're doing here is sort of looking at new technologies, new ways in which we can focus the treatment only on the tumour," Whelan told CBC News.

"One of the potential outcomes of the research because we are approaching treating prostate cancer in a minimally invasive way, we hope this technique will result in a lower complication rate."

Whelan is using a laser that sends light pulses to the tumour, which he says creates a distinct sound. That helps pinpoint the location of the tumour.

Some of the complications that come from prostatectomies are incontinence, loss of sensation and impotence.

Richard Burke was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2005.

"I just said it's best to get it out, get it over with so I don't have to worry," Burke said.

He said recovery was tough and so were the complications.

"It's painful, when you're recovering you do have quite a bit of pain in the front section," Burke said.

Whelan says his research is just in the beginning stages, but initial results have been promising.

He says it will be another 10 years before the treatment is fully tested, proven and perhaps ready for use.

Burke said he hopes Whelan's research pans out so that future generations have an easier time with their cancer treatment.

"There are enough men dying now. You don't need to have them dying anymore," said Burke.

Wednesday marked the last day of Movember, a global fundraiser for prostate cancer research. More than $32 million was raised in Canada this year.