Treating Older Men's Prostate Cancer May Be Wiser Course

Study argues against the practice of 'watchful waiting'

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MONDAY, Feb. 27, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Because prostate cancer can be a very slow-moving disease, older men diagnosed with the condition are often slated to "watchful waiting," rather than aggressive treatment.

But a new study questions the wisdom of that decision: It found that men over 65 with early prostate cancer live longer when they're treated than when they forego treatment.

"Some prostate cancers grow so slowly that they never become life-threatening, especially in elderly men who may die of other causes before the cancer causes problems. But other men develop complications and die from their cancer, making the decision to treat quite difficult," medical oncologist Dr. Yu-Ning Wong, of Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, noted in a prepared statement.

Prostate cancer remains one of the most common cancers in men -- the American Cancer Society estimates about 234,460 new cases will be diagnosed this year. When caught early, the malignancy is highly treatable. Nevertheless, the cancer society estimates that 27,350 American men will die of the disease in the coming year.

The Philadelphia team analyzed data from more than 48,000 men, aged 65 to 80, who survived at least one year after being diagnosed with localized prostate cancer, meaning it had not spread beyond the prostate. Of the men in the study, 34,046 received treatment with either radiation therapy or surgery to remove the prostate (radical prostatectomy). The remaining 14,560 men were placed under observation (watchful waiting).

The men who received treatment had a median survival time of 13 years, compared to 10 years for men in the watchful waiting group, Wong's team reports.

"This large, population-based study demonstrates a survival advantage for men treated with either radical prostratectomy or radiation therapy compared to observation. Eligible men should be considered for both treatment options," Wong said.

The findings were presented Saturday at the Prostate Cancer Symposium in San Francisco.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about early prostate cancer.

SOURCE: Fox Chase Cancer Center, news release, Feb. 25, 2006


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