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A Shot Of Steam: Another Treatment Option For Enlarged Prostate


Enlarged prostate is a problem common to men over 50. Doctors usually recommend medication or various forms of surgery to address the problem. However,  the Food and Drug Administration in 2015 approved a quicker, less invasive alternative treatment using steam.

Dr. Kenneth Goldberg with UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Department of Urology explains steam ablation. He’s the first urologist in North Texas certified to perform the procedure.

Highlights from the  Dr. Goldberg’s interview:

How the steam treatment works: “As the prostate enlarges, it impinges on the outflow tract from the bladder or the urethra. So you go up through the urethra with a telescope after you’ve numbed up the man, and you insert a small needle into the prostate and shoot nine seconds’ worth of steam. The steam then gets between the cells and destroys the cells. The number of nine second treatments in one session depends on the size of the prostate and the length of the prostate. The studies show no effect on sexual function or loss of urinary control or incontinence.”

Why steam is effective: “An engineer in Minnesota recognized that basically you can control what happens to steam which has heat or energy. But it’s not a microwave type of energy, it’s more convection type of heat, so it doesn’t do as much damage per say as would a laser, so there’s less tissue damage.”

Side effects: “Because of the swelling that occurs as a result of the destruction of the tissue, the process gets worse before it gets better. I warn my men (patients) the first two weeks they’re going to wonder what I did to them, an after two weeks they realize there is something here, and by a month they’re back to how they were. And typically by two months, they’re much better and off any medication they were on.”

Potential for the steam treatment: “It’s a novel treatment that really was designed with the idea of treating cancer because you can confine and control the steam as to where it goes. So the theory is and the plans are in the future to use it for prostate cancer, kidney cancers and other cancers because injecting the steam destroys the tissue. But you can control it. It can’t pass through a membrane.”

For more information:

Urologist first in DFW to use FDA-approved steam procedure to shrink enlarged prostate 

U.S. National Library of Medicine

Enlarged Prostate: A Complex Problem 

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.