Elderly Prostate Cancer Patients Can Tolerate Radiation Therapy

Those over 80 have strong five-year survival rate if otherwise healthy

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 3, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Elderly men with prostate cancer can tolerate external beam radiation treatment, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center researchers found after a 10-year study.

They presented the results Dec. 3 at the Radiological Society of North America's annual meeting in Chicago.

The study included 33 men, aged 80 and older. Most had advanced and aggressive forms of prostate cancer. They were all treated with external beam radiation therapy at the same radiation levels used to treat patients in their 50s and 60s.

The men in the study had a five-year survival rate of 61.6 percent and had no unusual or prolonged treatment interruption due to illness from the radiation therapy.

"The 61 percent survival rate is better than the five-year survival rate for lung cancer patients. So why not give elderly patients the benefit of the doubt? There's a good chance they'll live another five years," study author Dr. Melvin Deutsch says in a prepared statement.

But he notes that some elderly prostate cancer patients -- those who are severely ill or incapacitated, for example -- are not good candidates for radiation therapy.

Deutsch says some doctors believe the effort and cost of radiation therapy isn't beneficial to elderly prostate cancer patients. But this study shows that they can endure the treatment.

"When an 80-year-old patient comes to me with prostate cancer, assuming he's otherwise healthy, I'm going to treat him with radiation. If it can keep the cancer from coming back, then I say do it," Deutsch says.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about prostate cancer treatments.

SOURCE: Radiological Society of North America, news release, Dec. 3, 2003
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