Men diagnosed with early prostate cancer sometimes are suggested to monitor the disease rather than treating it, as it sometimes does not pose any practical health risks. A new investigation suggests it doesn’t matter whether the patient chooses to undergo treatment or not when the cancer is detected at early stages.

Oncologists cannot easily determine if prostate cancer is benignant or malignant until it shows signs of development, which leaves both the treating physician and the patient with doubts about treatment. Prostate cancer treatments can sometimes be more excruciating for patients than just keeping the disease under monitoring, as it disrupts the patients’ daily activities.

Physician, Patient
27,681 U.S. men died in 2013 as a consequence of prostate cancer, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Image credit: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

‘Certain cancers just don’t need to be treated’

The study had 82,400 men aged between 50 and 69 screened for prostate cancer. 1,600 resulted positive and were followed for 10 years since 1999. Patients were reviewed at the University of Bristol and Oxford, among other medical centers in Britain, to analyze the development of their cancer.

Results showed that it didn’t matter if the patient underwent radiation treatment, surgery, or monitoring. Survival rates appeared to be the same if the tumor did not metastasize.

Dr. Brawley stated that 44 percent of the males diagnosed did not receive any treatment, whereas only 20 percent received treatment because their cancer had progressed.

Although evidence suggests otherwise, Brawley asserted that men cannot bear to not undergo treatment whenever they are revealed that they have prostate cancer.

Treatment for prostate cancer has side effects. After surgery, participants of the study had more difficult sexual lives and had frequent urinary leakage, as they had their prostate glands removed. Patients who were submitted to radiation therapy saw digestive problems.

“It’s a challenging process to explain to people that certain cancers just don’t need to be treated,” stated Dr. Otis Brawlert, head of the American Cancer Society.

Dr. Brawley does not discard treating prostate cancer aggressively, but he explains that there are many cases that do not require treatments that could hassle the patients’ daily lives.

Dr. Brawly suggested that there is enough evidence to issue new guidelines about screening and treatment procedures for prostate cancer, as there are many cases of prostate cancer tumors that do not develop in time to cause patients any health problems.

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among American males after skin cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that 180,890 people will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2016 alone.

It is estimated that 1 out of every 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his life, while older men are more likely to develop the disease. Over half of the cases occur in men older than 65, whereas men should be regularly screened for prostate diseases once they turn 40 years old.

Source: New England Journal of Medicine