Treatment for prostate cancer doesn’t change outcomes much more than watchful waiting.
An estimated 180,890 American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year. The disease will also take the lives of 26,120 patients. But according to a new 10-year study conducted on more than 1,500 men in the United Kingdom, those who are diagnosed may want to hold off on starting aggressive treatment right away.
Typically, men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer are given several options: Have surgery to remove all or part of the gland, undergo radiotherapy to reduce any tumors, or take a “watch and wait” active monitoring approach, which involves additional screenings and biopsies but no treatment, as the cancer can grow so slowly that it often doesn’t present a medical problem for those who have it.
The study, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that men who received treatment ― either surgery or radiotherapy ― were better able to limit their cancer from spreading. But this didn’t necessarily mean immediate treatment led to better overall outcomes. Among the men who took a “watch and wait” approach, nearly half didn’t need any additional treatment. As a result, they avoided the negative side effects that come with surgery and radiation, such as bowel and urinary incontinence, sexual dysfunction and life-threatening cardiovascular issues.
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