Prostate Cancer: Survival vs. Treatment Side Effects

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Men newly diagnosed with early prostate cancer often say they'd trade some improvement in their survival odds for fewer treatment side effects and a better quality of life. That's one finding of research presented by scientists from the Imperial College London and the National Cancer Research Institute's Prostate Cancer Clinical Studies Group at the 2018 NCRI Cancer Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

Prostate cancer is often slow-growing and some men with disease are given the option of "watchful waiting," also called active surveillance. Treatment usually involves surgery or radiotherapy, which are both associated with significant rates of urinary incontinence and a loss of sexual function. Men may spend weeks or months recovering from prostate cancer treatment and some require additional treatment.

This study involved 634 men newly diagnosed with prostate cancer that had not spread, 74 percent with low- or medium-risk cancer and 26 percent with high-risk cancer, who had not yet discussed treatment options with their physicians. The U.K. researchers presented study participants with two hypothetical treatment options that differed in their likely effect on survival, side effects, recovery time, and odds of requiring further treatment.

Based on the men's choices, researchers were able to determine that survival was the most important factor, followed by avoiding incontinence, not needing additional treatment, and maintaining sexual function. They also determined that patients were willing to make trade-offs between survival and side effects. For example, study participants were willing to give up a 0.68 percent better chance of survival for a 1 percent better chance of maintaining urinary function, on average.

Sourced from: NCRI Cancer Conference