Monday, November 16, 2009

Canada study says watchful waiting can be safe

Men with slow-growing prostate cancer tumors don't necessarily need to rush into surgery or radiation -- treatments that can have severe side effects.

Such is the result of a study performed by the Odette Cancer Centre at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto.

It finds that "watchful waiting" is a low-risk option for patients with early stage, slow-growing prostate cancers.

Of 450 prostate cancer patients whose tumors were considered slow-growing and non-aggressive, the report found a 97.2 percent survival rate.

After 10 years, the study found that men in the watchful-waiting group were 18 times more likely to die of causes other than prostate cancer, says the CTV news website.

"Watchful waiting" is an active medical program that entails regular PSA screenings and biopsies for men diagnosed with prostate cancer. If this method of surveillance discovers a cancer tumor is becoming larger and more aggressive, a more radical form of treatment is proscribed.

In the Canada study, 30 percent of the patients were reclassified during the study period for surgery or radiation. That still leaves 70 percent who didn't take aggressive action against their cancer tumors early on and survived the term of the study.

Watchful waiting is certainly a viable alternative, especially if the doctors consider it. The side effects of surgery and radiation -- incontinence and erectile dysfunction -- can be long-lasting and sometimes permanent.

That's why it's important to get a second or third opinion of your diagnosis, even if it seems cut and dried.

The report is in the latest issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

No comments: