Warning over 'unnecessary' prostate surgerySurvival advantage open to debate

25 May 2006

Many men with non-aggressive prostate cancer face years of side-effects because they've had to go through unnecessary surgery and radiotherapy

That's the warning from the Institute of Cancer Research, a leading cancer research organisation.

It says new research shows that removing the prostate gland or giving radiotherapy is unlikely to improve survival for patients with low-grade prostate cancer. But these patients may find themselves impotent and suffering from incontinence or bowel problems following such treatment.

Most common male cancer

The findings suggest that only 1 per cent of men aged 55 to 59 with low-grade cancer would die within 15 years if they received no treatment. But up to 68 per cent of men with high-grade prostate cancer would die if they weren't treated.

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed male cancer in the UK, with nearly 32,000 cases reported each year and around 10,000 deaths.

Dr Chris Hiley, Head of Policy and Research at the Prostate Cancer Charity, said: 'Prostate cancer can be fatal for some men but others can live with a low-grade prostate cancer with minimal or no impact on their life, longevity or health.

'This study is important because it predicts that the majority of men with these low-grade prostate cancers, usually detected by screening, don't live longer by having life-saving treatment for prostate cancer.'

Options clearer

She hoped the new research might make it easier for doctors to explain the various options and possible outcomes to men newly diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Dr Hiley added:'Clearly, some men with a prostate cancer diagnosis will always prefer an operation to cut it out, or radiotherapy to treat the cancer. This new evidence shows men mustn't be left to overestimate the survival advantage that such an option would give them.'