Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center treated 33 prostate cancer patients, over age 80, with external beam radiation therapy. Patients received the same radiation doses that patients in their 50s and 60s receive.
Results of the study show the elderly patients had a five-year survival rate of more than 60 percent. Researchers say these patients experienced no unusual or prolonged breaks in treatment due to illness brought on by radiation. Thirteen of the patients were alive and disease-free 23 months to 83 months after receiving the treatment, and six patients whose cancer progressed were alive 44 months to 98 months after treatment. Fourteen of the patients died during the study, which lasted 10 years. Of these patients, five had no evidence of prostate cancer, four had their disease progress, and five had an unknown disease status.
Researchers say not all elderly cancer patients are good candidates for radiation, such as those who are severely ill. However, they say if patients are otherwise healthy, radiation therapy may be a safe treatment. Thus researchers conclude," why not give elderly patients the benefit of the doubt? There's a good chance they'll live another five years ... If it can keep the cancer from coming back ".