Study Finds A Monitoring Approach May Be As Effective As Treatment Interventions For Prostate Cancer

The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 288,000 new cases of prostate cancer — the second leading cause of cancer-related death amongst men in the U.S. — will be diagnosed across the country in 2023.

Treatment methods for prostate cancer can vary from surgery to chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and more. However, findings from a new study recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine shows that men diagnosed with prostate cancer may not need to immediately jump into treatment in order to increase their chances of survival, reports HealthDay

Out of 82,429 men in the U.K. who had received a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test in the ten years between 1999 and 2009, 1,643 of these men were enrolled in the study, which was designed to analyze the efficacy of different prostate cancer treatment methods. Participants were between the ages of 50 and 69. While 545 men received radiation therapy and another 553 men received a prostatectomy, a third group of 545 men underwent an active monitoring approach, rather than a direct treatment intervention.

Over the course of an average 15-year follow-up period, the study findings revealed that the number of prostate cancer deaths that occurred were similar between the three groups. Out of 45 total deaths, 12 men had died in the prostatectomy group, 16 deaths occurred in the radiation treatment group, and 17 men had died in the active monitoring group.

Survival rates proved similar across all three groups

While those in the active monitoring group did stand at an increased risk for the progression or spread of their cancer, their long-term survival odds were no different from that of the participants who receiving surgery or radiation therapy, as outlined in a press release. Specifically, 97% of participants survived 15 years after their initial diagnoses, no matter which group they had been randomly assigned to. Even more, one-fourth of men in the active monitoring group had gone treatment-free for the 15-year period. All participants reported similar overall quality of life.

However, the press release also noted that side effects pertaining to urinary and sexual function from the radiation and surgery treatments were more long-lasting than anticipated, by as many as 12 years.

Although further research is still needed, the study team points out that while men diagnosed with low- or moderate-risk prostate cancer may have many factors to consider when it comes to treatment decisions, survival rates may not necessarily need to be one of them. "Survival no longer needs to be considered when deciding on treatment — as that's the same for all three options," Jenny Donovan, co-investigator on the study and professor from the University of Bristol, stated via the press release. "Now men diagnosed with localized prostate cancer can use their own values and priorities when making the difficult decisions about which treatment to choose."