Watch Out: Prostate cancer is often over-treated

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According to statistics from the American Cancer Society, about 161,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year, and about 26,700 men will die of prostate cancer.

In other words, roughly one man in 7 diagnosed with prostate cancer  will die from that malignancy.

Or looked at it from the other end, 6 in 7 men diagnosed with prostate cancer will not die of their cancer but rather die from something else before their slow-growing cancer has had a chance to kill them.

Which is why an man newly-diagnosed with prostate cancer and who’s been told that he must treat it, especially if the suggested treatment is surgery, needs to ask his doctor(s) some very hard questions starting with “How sure are you that I need any treatment at all?” and “What happens if I elect to just wait and see?”

That’s because surgical treatment for prostate cancer often results in very unhappy patients from common potential complications such as incontinence, impotence, and infections.

That’s the pretty straight-forward analysis (and advice) from an important new study just published in the New England Journal of Medicine called the Prostate Cancer Intervention Versus Observation Trial (PIVOT) which followed 731 men newly diagnosed with prostate cancer for up to 20 years and concluded that the vast majority of prostate cancer patients can wait and see if the cancer progressed before deciding on any active treatment because most prostate cancers are so slow-growing that most men who have prostate cancer are likely to die of something else.

Now clearly, every cancer has to be treated on an individual basis so some prostate cancers must be actively treated when diagnosed, especially more aggressive cancers and cancers in men with a very long life expectancy.

But most men with prostate cancer do not fall into those categories hence my advice to ask those questions I mentioned earlier.

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