Quick study: prostate cancer

THE QUESTION: Men's treatment options for cancer that has not spread beyond the prostate include surgery to remove the gland, radiation therapy, hormone therapy and "watchful waiting" (withholding treatment unless the cancer progresses). Is survival more likely with one choice than the others?

THIS STUDY: It analyzed data on 844 men (average age: 71) who had been treated for localized prostate cancer. Those who had chosen surgery (prostatectomy) had a 10-year survival rate of 83 percent, compared with 75 percent for radiation, 72 percent for the wait-and-see approach and 41 percent for hormone therapy. Rates were better with surgery for the youngest men and those with what are called poorly differentiated tumors, meaning the cancer cells are less structured and grow more rapidly than other cancer cells.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Men with localized prostate cancer. The cancer will be diagnosed in nearly 220,000 men, most of them 65 or older, in the United States this year.

CAVEATS: The study did not evaluate quality-of-life issues, such as risk of incontinence or sexual complications, that often affect a man's choice of treatment.

FIND THIS STUDY: It's in the Oct. 8 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

LEARN MORE ABOUT prostate cancer at www.cancer.gov and www.cancer.org.

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.

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