Waiting to Treat Prostate Cancer a Viable Option, Study Suggests

Christina Dodd 

A recent study suggests that for older men with low-risk prostate cancer, closely monitoring the tumor rather than treating it immediately could be a viable option. In a study consisting of over six hundred and fifty men at an average age of sixty-six years old, most safely could go without treating their prostate cancer for up to five years, according to a report published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Treat Prostate CancerDr. H. Ballentine Carter, a professor of oncology and urology at the School of Medicine at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, says that the essential difficulty with how prostate cancer is treated today is the extent to which it is over-treated. Carter adds that part of the reason it is so over-treated is that there is no reliable method for predicting whether a patient will eventually be harmed by their cancer. Carter went on to say that in most cases, the type of prostate cancer in question is the slow-growing type with which a patient could live for years without detrimental effects.

Past studies have shown that prostate cancer screening does not help men to live longer, and that not treating the disease does not typically result in higher death rates. In fact, the United States Preventative Services Task Force released a statement in which it recommends against screening males over the age of seventy-five, and says that there is not enough conclusive evidence to determine whether it is useful for younger men. In fact, Carter says that when it comes to men over sixty-five who are tested and diagnosed with prostate cancer, the first thing to be considered is whether the cancer should even be treated, rather than how to treat it.

Roughly one-third of the men in the study eventually received treatment, with the majority (eight out of ten) putting it off for two years, and six out of ten put it off for five years. There were no deaths from prostate cancer in the study. For many men, not receiving treatment could be the best solution, as surgery runs between twenty and thirty thousand dollars, while radiation treatment can cost between ten and twenty thousand.

For men without health insurance, or whose health insurance will not cover the full cost of treatment, postponing treatment can be a valuable option. Every year, one hundred and fifty men out of one hundred thousand will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and of those, one in six will die from the disease. The average age at time of diagnosis is sixty-seven, while the average age of death from prostate cancer is eighty.