When you first get diagnosed with something, your immediate thought is probably “how do I get the appropriate treatment as soon as possible before it progresses?” However, a man with prostate cancer who takes the “watch-and-wait” approach may have the same long-term survival odds as those who undergo radiation therapy or surgery, according to a new large-scale study.
Patients had the same 97 percent survival rate after a decade and a half whether doctors treated their tumor or simply put it under observation, British researchers found.
“Survival from prostate cancer was high after 15 years of follow-up, whether patients received radiotherapy, prostatectomy [prostate removal] or active monitoring,” said study co-author Jenny Donovan, a professor of social medicine with the University of Bristol. “Only three percent of patients in the study died from prostate cancer.”
Researchers presented the findings last weekend at the European Association of Urology’s annual meeting, in Milan, and the results were published simultaneously in the New England Journal of Medicine.
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The ‘watch and wait’ approach
For the study, researchers evaluated nearly 82,500 men in the United Kingdom who underwent a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test between 1999 and 2009.
The study recruited just over 1,600 men diagnosed with localized prostate cancer as a result of their screening and randomly assigned them to one of three groups — an active monitoring group, a group that underwent surgery to remove their prostate, and a group that received radiation therapy for their cancer.
After 15 years, only 45 had died — 17 in the active monitoring group, 12 in the surgery group and 16 in the radiation therapy group.
Men on active monitoring were more likely to see their cancer progress or spread, but this didn’t reduce their chances of long-term survival.
As a result, the researchers concluded that men diagnosed with low- or moderate-risk prostate cancer don’t need to panic and rush their treatment decisions.
“Many patients with prostate cancer contained to the prostate could delay or forgo radical treatment without compromising