Thousands of prostate cancer patients can be spared radiotherapy because a large study shows that the chances of the disease returning are the same for men who do not have debilitating treatment
- Researchers found no benefit in radiotherapy after surgery to keep cancer away
- They say that observation should be a new approach after the prostate has been removed
- Radiotherapy is currently given to the vast majority of patients after surgery
Thousands of men with prostate cancer can be spared from heavy radiotherapy after surgery, a study suggests.
Patients currently receive debilitating treatment, which can lead to incontinence and fatigue, after going under the knife.
However, scientists have found that men receiving radiotherapy run the same risk that their cancer will return within five years as those who did not.
Researchers now claim observation should be the standard approach after surgery and radiotherapy should only be used when the cancer returns.
British researchers say that radiotherapy after prostate cancer surgery does not yield any benefits (file)
Scientists from the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust looked at 1,396 patients from the UK, Denmark, Canada and Ireland.
All men were randomly assigned to receive radiotherapy or observation after surgery.
Radiotherapy bathes their entire pelvis in a radioactive beam that aims to destroy cancer cells in the prostate.
But in addition to attacking cancer cells, radiotherapy also damages healthy tissue that is burdening the body.
After a five-year follow-up, progression-free survival was 85 percent in the radiotherapy group and 88 percent in those who did not.
Chief author Professor Chris Parker, clinical oncologist consultant at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, said that radiotherapy should only be used when prostate cancer returns.
WHAT IS PROSTATE CANCER?
How many people does it kill?
Prostate cancer became a greater killer than breast cancer for the first time, official statistics revealed last year.
More than 11,800 men a year – or one every 45 minutes – are now killed by the disease in Britain, compared to around 11,400 women who die of breast cancer.
How fast is it developing?
Prostate cancer usually develops slowly, so there can be no signs that someone has it for years, according to the NHS.
If the cancer is at an early stage and causes no symptoms, a policy of & # 39; can wait alert & # 39; or & # 39; active surveillance & # 39; are accepted.
Some patients can be cured if the disease is treated at an early stage.
But if it is diagnosed at a later stage, when it has spread, it becomes terminal and the treatment revolves around relieving symptoms.
Testing and treatment
Tests for prostate cancer are haphazard, with accurate tools that are just starting to show up.
There is no national prostate screening program because the tests have been too inaccurate for years.
Doctors have difficulty distinguishing between aggressive and less severe tumors, making it difficult to choose a treatment.
Men over 50 are eligible for a "PSA" blood test that gives doctors a rough idea of whether a patient is at risk.
But it is unreliable. Patients who receive a positive result usually receive a biopsy that is also not watertight.
Scientists are not sure what causes prostate cancer, but age, obesity, and lack of exercise are known risks.
Anyone with concerns can contact the Prostate Cancer UK specialist nurses on 0800 074 8383 or come to visit prostatecanceruk.org
He said: & # 39; The results of this study indicate that postoperative radiotherapy is equally effective in patients with prostate cancer, whether given to all men shortly after surgery or later to men with recurrent disease.
& # 39; There is now a strong case that observation should be the standard approach after surgery and that radiotherapy should be used when the cancer returns.
& # 39; This is good news for future patients, as many men will avoid the adverse side effects of radiotherapy, including urinary incontinence.
& # 39; This is a possible complication after surgery alone, but the risk is greater if radiotherapy is also used. & # 39;
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK, with 47,000 men diagnosed each year.
It usually develops slowly and most cancers do not require treatment in a man's life.
But doctors are currently struggling to distinguish between aggressive and less severe tumors, making it difficult to decide on treatment.
Aggressive forms of the disease require rapid treatment, but low-risk patients often do not need treatment at all.
The study must be presented today at the annual meeting of the European Society for Medical Oncology in Barcelona, Spain.
WHAT IS RADIOTHERAPY?
Radiotherapy is a cancer treatment in which radiation is used to destroy tumor cells.
It is usually emitted as radiation beams that are aimed at a tumor and are so powerful that the energy destroys the flesh on which it is directed.
Radiotherapy can also be done by temporarily bringing radioactive implants into the body near the cancer, or by taking or injecting radioactive drugs.
Because radiation does not distinguish between cancerous and healthy tissue, it can also destroy healthy meat.
This can cause side effects such as pain, illness, fatigue, hair loss and loss of appetite.
Radiation therapy usually takes several sessions for a few weeks, and it can be used to cure a tumor or simply to relieve symptoms.
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