With over 161,300 new cases and 26,700 deaths each year, prostate cancer is the third leading cause of death for men in the US. 1 in every 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime, and 1 in 39 men will die of prostate cancer. While 60% of cases are in men aged 65 and older, it’s rare but not unheard of to develop prostate cancer before the age of 40. Many men avoid the doctor for prostate exams and even symptoms because the test is so unpleasant, and given the prevalence of the disease, that’s a major problem.
By decreasing the dread, doctors could potentially increase the number of men who get their recommended prostate exams, and while physicians try to make the experience as comfortable as possible, it certainly could be improved upon. There has been talk of a Mixed Reality app that uses haptic feedback, or tactile responses, to train physicians to perform rectal exams using mannequins. The aim would be to teach physicians to perform the exam with as little patient discomfort as possible.
If the digital rectal exam indicates a problem, the next step is an unpleasant but common procedure called a Transrectal Ultrasound Guided Prostate Biopsy. The researchers at the University of Grenoble developed an Augmented Reality simulator for this procedure in 2013. This simulator would allow urology residents to use a haptic interface to practice on, training on several common and not-so-common clinical cases. Again, the goal here is to maximize patient comfort and improve physician skill and technique.
transrectal ultrasound is one of the greatest tools we have to diagnose prostate cancer
In addition to diagnostic imaging and biopsy, Augmented and Mixed Reality can help in surgery, too. The transurethral resection of the prostate is the surgical procedure used to treat prostate cancer, and while there has been talk of a training simulator since 2001, no action has been taken so far in creating one. It’s an important procedure, and the conditions of a fluid environment and complicated bleeding scenarios lend it to being an ideal one to train by simulation. An AR component might make training easier to learn and to practice.
There have been discussions for other MR and AR tools in urology, including the teaching of anatomy, 3D modeling of medical imaging, erectile dysfunction treatment, preoperative planning, nephrectomy surgery (which we’ve talked about before), telesurgery, augmented biofeedback in pelvic floor muscle re-education (which we plan to discuss!), and more. There are too many applications for AR and MR for us to list, but if you have ideas, we’d love to hear them in the comments section!