Years ago, any time a prostate tumor was identified, it was removed or treated. It was thought that this move would save a man’s life. Soon it was discovered that some prostate cancer tumors never turn aggressive, while others turn metastatic, spreading to other tissues and organs and threatening the patient’s life. Treatment of prostate cancer can leave serious after-effects such as urinary and bowel incontinence, and erectile dysfunction, although some modern techniques limit these. To avoid unnecessary procedures, doctors and urologists have taken to the strategy of active surveillance. This is when a tumor is monitored closely to see if it will turn aggressive. This way, a man’s quality of life can be preserved and the chance of unnecessary treatment minimized. A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology find that this strategy is in fact the proper one. It finds that non-aggressive prostate cancer is in fact unlikely to turn aggressive and threaten a man’s life.
Dr. H. Ballentine Carter and colleagues from Brady Urological Institute at John Hopkins University conducted the study. The long-term data for 1,298 prostate cancer patients was analyzed. Each had been diagnosed with a low or very low-risk tumor. Over a 15-year period, only two of these men developed aggressive prostate cancer. At the 15-year follow-up it was determined that these men were 24 times more likely to die of another disease. In 99.9% of cases the cancer had not spread. In 99.4% of them the cancer had not gone metastatic but remained localized. Biopsies were performed on each man until age of 75 to come to these conclusions. According to the study for those who have low-risk prostate cancer, the chances of it turning aggressive are “no more than 5.9%”. Still, any tumor should be carefully monitored. The trouble with prostate cancer is, oftentimes patients do not feel any symptoms at all. They do not know they have it, aggressive or otherwise. Due to this, men 40 years-old and over should address screening with their doctor. Those over 50, men who have had it in their immediate family, or African-American men should be periodically screened, as they are at a higher risk.