97 Percent of Men Survive Prostate Cancer Even Without Treatment
October 21st, 2010
By: David Gutierrez
If none of the men diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer were ever treated, 97 percent of them would still survive the disease, according to a study conducted by Swedish researchers and published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Most prostate cancers grow so slowly that researchers have increasingly questioned whether the significant risks of treatment with hormones, surgery or radiation — all of which can cause side effects including incontinence and impotence — are actually justified by a serious threat to patients’ lives.
“What the data is showing is that for most patients with low-risk cancer, there is no need to panic,” said cancer researcher Grace Lu-Yao of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, who was not involved in the study. “Prostate cancer really is no longer a fatal disease.”
Researchers used data from Sweden’s national cancer registry to compare death rates among 6,800 men under the age of 70 who had been diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer classified as low- or intermediate-risk. The risk factor of each cancer was calculated through a combination of tests, including the prostate specific antigen (PSA) and Gleason tests. Participants either underwent aggressive cancer treatment with hormones, surgery or radiation, or they took a “watchful waiting” approach in which their doctors monitored them for any progression in the cancer.
After eight years, 20 percent of the men in the watchful waiting group had died — the same as the proportion for the general population. Fewer than 3 percent had died from prostate cancer. The researchers estimated that after 10 years, only 2.4 percent of participants in this group would have died from prostate caner.
Although the rate of death from both prostate cancer and from all causes was lower in the treatment group, the researchers noted that men in the “watchful waiting” group tended to be sicker going into the study than men who underwent treatment.