Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) confirmed that radiation therapy is the number one treatment to address men suffering with prostate cancer despite the aggressiveness of the tumor, treatment risks and overall patient characteristics, background and prognosis.
These findings were published in the JAMA Oncology journal and support the necessity of treatment evaluation by physicians and the importance of better informing those fighting against the disease.
Dr. Karim Chamie led the research study at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center in which data covering claims of more than 37,000 patients from 2004 to 2007 were analyzed. The data was provided by the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Program of the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
Researchers concluded that radiation therapy was the most frequent treatment used, with 58 percent of patients benefiting from it. Radical prostatectomy (a procedure through which the prostate is removed surgically) was the second most common treatment, with 19 percent of patients undergoing this procedure. Alternative treatments included watchful waiting to monitor cancer development and active surveillance.
Prostate cancer is a common type of cancer among men in the United States, with 233,000 new registered cases in 2014 and 29,480 deaths in the same year. Early-diagnosis and treatment improvements have led to the use of aggressive local treatments, especially radiation therapy, that nonetheless might carry adverse effects. Patients should consider physicians’ recommendations concerning the characteristics of their own cancer, its aggressiveness and preferred treatment depending on their specific conditions and backgrounds.
“Doctors and patients view radiation as safe. There’s no anesthesia or hospitalization, the patient comes in for 15 or 20 minutes for their daily radiation treatment, it’s localized to a specific area, then they get to go home. They often don’t notice any immediate effects upfront,” explained Dr. Chamie in a press release. However, two years after treatment, men start to suffer side effects that can include leakage of urine, incontinence, bowel dysfunction and anal leakage, blood in the urine, erectile dysfunction and radiation cystitis. These consequences significantly decrease the quality of life of these patients.
Dr. Chamie expects these findings can emphasize the urgency of rethinking treatment options for men with prostate cancer. “Men fighting this disease don’t always need radiation or surgery as their only choice. As we find more reports demonstrating the safety and efficacy of active surveillance, I hope patients and physicians look to this as the first treatment option for low-risk and indolent disease. Here at UCLA, I am proud to say that we have a robust active surveillance program that utilizes MRI and targeted biopsies to monitor and survey these indolent tumors,” concluded the researcher.