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Posted: February 19, 2008

Older Prostate Cancer Victims Can Safely Hold Off Treatment: Study

Elderly men diagnosed with an early stage of prostate cancer need not rush into treatment and instead can safely take a “watch and wait” approach to the condition, researchers say.
 
The reason, according to study findings presented at a cancer conference last week, is that this particular group of men – age 70 and older – is not likely to die from the cancer, if they are stricken late in life.
 
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Something other than cancer will most likely kill men in this group, said Grace Lu-Yao, of the Cancer Institute of New Jersey and the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey, who examined the condition and treatment needs.
 
"Because prostate cancer therapies are associated with significant side effects, our data can help patients make better informed decisions about the most appropriate approach for them and potentially avoid treatment without adversely affecting their health," Lu-Yao said in a statement.
 
However, she stressed that men who choose not to undergo treatment should be carefully watched to guard against the cancer spreading or becoming more aggressive.
 
Lu-Yao announced her findings after studying more than 9,000 older men with prostate cancer that had not spread and showed that only 3% to 7% of the men with low or moderate-grade tumors died because of the cancer after 10 years. This compares with 23% of those with high-grade tumors who died from the cancer. Overall, prostate cancer killed 10% of the test subjects.
 
Of the 9,000 study participants, 2,675 eventually sought treatment through surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or hormone therapy – but they waited for an average of more than 10 years before acting.
 
Prostate cancer treatments are tough, especially on older men. Many men are left with sexual or bladder control problems. Some doctors instead recommend what they call "watchful waiting" to track signs of the disease and provide treatment only if they worsen. However, smaller studies have given conflicting views of the safety of the “watchful waiting” approach.
 
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in American men – and the second leading cancer killer in men after lung cancer. About 220,000 American men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year. Worldwide, some 782,600 men are diagnosed with the disease annually and 254,000 eventually will die from it.

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