A large study involving 44,000 American men aged 65 to 80 finds that men with prostate cancer treated with surgery or radiation had about 30 % more chances of survival than men who forego treatment.
According to the American Cancer Society estimate, more than 230,000 men in the United States were diagnosed with prostate cancer last year, and 30,000 died from it.
'For many years the thinking has been that observation or 'watchful waiting' was the safest option for elderly patients with early prostate cancer,' said Yu-Ning Wong , a medical oncologist of the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, who led the study. 'This suggests there may be a benefit of treatment, even in this age group.'
It is generally believed that, elderly men need not treat early prostate cancer because it grows so slowly that they will probably die of something else first. This research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, is the first to examine how treatment for prostate cancer affects chances of survival.
Wong and her colleagues examined several national cancer databases to study the overall survival of 44,630 men with low- and intermediate-stage prostate cancer in patients aged 65 to 80, diagnosed with the disease between 1991 and 1999.
The researchers reported that over the twelve year period, 37 % of the men with prostate cancer who opted for the wait and watch approach died, compared with 24 % of those who took active treatment like- undergoing surgery or brachytherapy.
Wong said she did the project because she wanted to find out the best course of treatment.
However urologists who have treated many men with prostate cancer said - the side effects associated with surgery or radiation therapy are the reason why doctors advise 'wait and watch' approach.
Although advances in surgical and radiation therapy techniques have reduced the incidence of negative outcomes, many men treated for the disease still experience urinary incontinence, rectal bleeding and erectile dysfunction.