Older men who have early-stage prostate cancer, as well as other serious health problems, may be not be good candidates for aggressive cancer therapies such as surgery or radiation. A UCLA study found that early-stage prostate cancer patients aged 66 and older, who had other health concerns, such as diabetes or a history of heart disease, did not live any longer with aggressive therapy than similar patients who received no cancer treatment. Prostate cancer treatments can also lead to side effects such as impotence and urinary incontinence.
“In the past, we’ve relied on the basic argument that because older and sicker men are much more likely to die of other things besides their prostate cancer, exposing them to aggressive treatment and its debilitating side effects is a poor gamble,” says study author and UCLA urologist Timothy Daskivich, MD. “Now we’ve shown that aggressive treatment of these men is ineffective. This information will help these men better maximize the quality of their remaining years.”
The study involved more than 140,500 older men, who were followed for 15 years. Results were published in the journal Cancer. Researchers found that older men with multiple health problems did not live long enough to benefit from aggressive prostate cancer treatment.
“These findings will also benefit the doctors who are trying to counsel these men on whether or not they should receive treatment,” Dr. Daskivich says. “The guidelines suggest the men with life expectancies of less than 10 years shouldn’t be treated aggressively, but life expectancy is difficult to measure accurately. This data clearly defines a subset of patients who should avoid therapies that will only cause them problems they don’t already have.”
If you have prostate cancer, discuss the risks and benefits of treatment with your doctor. Get a second opinion if you have doubts about your physician’s suggested course of action.
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