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Study Reveals Quality of Life Concerns Paramount in Prostate Cancer Treatment Options

For many men newly diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer, concerns about potential quality-of-life issues often guide treatment decisions. A new study led by UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers identifies distinct patterns of side effects that patients could use to guide their choices.

In the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study examines quality-of-life outcomes for the treatment choices most patients will face. Those choices include active surveillance, radical prostatectomy, external beam radiation treatment, and brachytherapy, a treatment that involves inserting radioactive seeds into the prostate. “Patients diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer — and that’s the vast majority of patients with this disease — face many treatment options that are thought to be similarly efficacious,” said Ronald C. Chen, MD, MPH, UNC Lineberger member and associate professor in the UNC School of Medicine Department of Radiation Oncology. “Therefore, the quality-of-life differences among these options become an important consideration when patients are trying to make their decisions.”

The study is needed as prostate cancer treatment technologies have advanced, and as active surveillance has emerged as an important strategy for sparing low-risk prostate cancer patients unnecessary side effects. Active surveillance involves regular testing to check for cancer growth rather than immediate treatment, and many patients with low-risk prostate cancer on active surveillance may be able to avoid treatment for several years or altogether. The American Society of Clinical Oncology has endorsed active surveillance for most men with low-risk prostate cancer.

“There has not been a large-scale comparison of the quality-of-life impact for these modern options, until now,” Chen said. “Existing quality of life studies have studied older types of surgery and radiation that are no longer used, and patients need updated information regarding the impact of modern treatment options so they can make informed decisions about the choices they face today.”

For the study, UNC Lineberger researchers surveyed 1,141 men who were diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer between January 2011 and June 2013. They compared patients’ self-reported quality of life related to bowel, urination, and sexual function across four strategies: active surveillance; prostatectomy; external beam radiotherapy; and brachytherapy. Almost all prostatectomy patients received robotic surgery, and almost all external beam radiotherapy patients received intensity-modulated radiation, reflecting modern treatment technologies.

Prostatectomy was linked to higher sexual dysfunction and urinary leakage than the other options. At two years after treatment, more than 57 percent of men who had normal sexual function prior to treatment reported poor sexual function after surgery, compared with 27 percent who reported poor sexual function after external beam radiation, 34 percent after brachytherapy, and 25 percent after active surveillance. “With modern robotic surgery, sexual dysfunction and urinary incontinence continue to be some of the side effects that surgery can cause,” Chen said. “While we do see improvement over time, even at the two-year point, surgery still causes more of these issues than other treatments.”

Meanwhile, other treatment choices were linked to worse scores for other side effects. External beam radiotherapy and brachytherapy caused more short-term urinary tract obstruction and irritation, while external beam radiotherapy was linked to more short-term bowel symptoms.

For the group of men who chose active surveillance, urinary issues and sexual function worsened over time. This is likely partly due to aging, and partly due to some men who experienced cancer progression that necessitated treatments that caused these side effects.

“At the two-year time point, patients who chose radiotherapy or brachytherapy actually had quality-of-life results similar to patient who chose active surveillance, and that may be surprising to some patients,” Chen said. “With advances in treatment technologies for both surgery and radiation, patients and physicians today must base their decisions on the quality-of-life results of modern treatments, not on results for outdated treatment modalities that caused much more side effects historically.” Overall, Chen said the data can help patients weigh their treatment options based on their own baseline health and on their priorities.

“With all of the modern treatment options, patients should have accurate and realistic expectations about the frequency of side effects from treatment,” Chen said. “We found that the different treatment options have trade-offs in side effects. Each patient can look at these data to see what they care about most.”


Story Source:

Materials provided by University of North Carolina Health Care System. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ronald C. Chen et al. Association Between Choice of Radical Prostatectomy, External Beam Radiotherapy, Brachytherapy, or Active Surveillance and Patient-Reported Quality of Life Among Men With Localized Prostate Cancer. JAMA, March 2017 DOI: 10.1001/jama.2017.1652

See this article on ScienceDaily: 21 March 2017. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170321124231.htm.
By | March 27th, 2017|Dr. Michael Lazar, News|0 Comments

Prostate Cancer Rates Take a Nose Dive Per Latest Statistics

Dr. Michael Lazar of California HIFU, Urologist and Prostate Cancer expert reflects on the latest American Cancer Society statics

The results from the American Cancer Society’s newest report on cancer rates is good news for everyone and particularly good news for prostate cancer patients: incidents of cancer is down as is the likelihood of prostate cancer patients dying from the diagnosis.

According to the report the cancer death rate has dropped from its peak of 215.1 in 1991 to 161.2 in 2014 (per 100K population), the most recent year for which data was available to analyze. Overall the decline in cancer is linked with decreases in smoking and advances in early detection and treatment. The four major cancer drops are:

  • lung (- 43% between 1990 and 2014 among males and -17% between 2002 and 2014 among females)
  • breast (-38% from 1989 to 2014)
  • prostate (-51% from 1993 to 2014)
  • colorectal (-51% from 1976 to 2014)

“This is really exciting news for anyone who specializes in prostate cancer,” says Michael Lazar, M.D. “And its particularly good news for our patients. When a man is diagnosed with cancer, whether it’s prostate cancer or some other cancer – the news is always difficult to accept. With the number of people being diagnosed with prostate cancer dropping steadily along with the expected death rates, patients are now more empowered to be optimistic about their treatment options.”

According to the American Cancer Society, the decline in new cancer rates for men can be attributed to the recent drop in prostate cancer diagnoses. This has to do with the fact that routine screening with the PSA blood test is no longer recommended out of concerns for over-diagnosis and treatment of positive results that are best left untreated. Therefore, fewer cases of prostate cancer are now being detected. But this does not need to lessen the importance of getting screened for prostate cancer when symptoms are apparent.

“Although this is really good news, men who are concerned about prostate cancer, and anyone in the high-risk group still needs to be to screened early and at regular intervals,” says Dr. Lazar. “Once cancer has advanced beyond the prostate gland, available treatment options become more radical.”

The highest risk groups for prostate cancer are men over the age of 50, African-American men, and men who have a father, brother or son who has had prostate cancer.

About Prostate Cancer

Most prostate cancers tend to grow slowly, and don’t cause obvious health problems for men who have received a diagnosis. In certain situations, prostate cancer can be managed conservatively, especially in elderly men. But one treatment that stands out among more invasive options for prostate cancer is High-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) and it is most effective for men who have been diagnose and are in the early stages of the disease. Therefore, this is one technology that requires vigilance at the early stages when HIFU would be most effective for prostate cancer eradication.

“For patients with prostate cancer, HIFU treatment is most effective in the early stages,” explains Dr. Lazar. “When the cancer is localized to the prostate treatment by HIFU is extremely effective. Unlike other treatments, this procedure preserves healthy tissue and nerves, so urine flow and erectile function is maintained in a high percent of cases, as compared to radical surgery or radiation.”

The oncological results for HIFU is comparable to more traditional prostate cancer treatments including radical surgery or radiation. But the side effects for HIFU patients have proven to be much less debilitating than more radical procedures.

About Dr. Lazar

Dr. Michael Lazar is the only Northern California physician recognized as a leader in the use of high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) for prostate cancer. He has been successfully treating patients with HIFU since 2007. Dr. Lazar formed California HIFU to offer minimally invasive prostate cancer treatment to men with the Sonablate.

For more information about HIFU treatment which is now available in San Francisco, or to make an appointment call: (707) 546-5553. Visit us online to learn more.