Prostate cancer is tricky. Some tumors grow so slowly they may never require treatment. Others zip around at light speed, morphing into life-threatening agents that must be taken out - literally. But, what happens when the cancer returns? Many men face a second tough choice. Should they treat the returned cancer with radiation therapy - and risk the potential side effects - or, should they take a wait and see approach, relying on frequent monitoring to see if the cancer is spreading?
New research says to put your money on the radiation therapy.
Scientists from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine studied the medical records of over 600 men with prostate cancer. These men had two things in common: each had undergone a radical prostatectomy, in which the prostate and some surrounding tissue are removed, and each man's cancer had returned. The treatment choices the men made following the return of the cancer fell into three groups: about 400 men chose to receive no additional therapy; 160 men chose to receive radiation therapy; just under 80 men chose to receive both radiation therapy and hormonal treatment.
The results were impressive. Six years after the return of their cancers, the men who had undergone radiation therapy fared far better than men who opted for no treatment. Their chance of surviving ten years was 86 percent, compared to only 62 percent for the men forgoing treatment.
The men who benefited the most were the men whose cancer was the most aggressive. They were at the highest risk of the cancer spreading and the radiation therapy helped stop the spread and extend their lives. Men with lower risks may still benefit, but must also weight the potential side effects, including incontinence and bowel troubles.
So, though prostate cancer is never good news, this is certainly a bright spot. Now, even with the return of the cancer, men have a solid option to fight the disease and extend their lives. That's good news for everyone.To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To learn more about prostate cancer, including treatment options, see this from the Prostate Cancer Foundation.