New data on radiation overturns prostate cancer treatment approach

23 Mar 2015

Two new studies from the University of Virginia School of Medicine have overturned the widely held view that it's best to delay radiation treatment as long as possible after the removal of the prostate in order to reduce side effects.

Radiation oncologist Timothy N. Showalter, MD, of the UVA Cancer Center conducted two studies to address the lack of facts on this commonly held clinical belief: that radiation treatment should be delayed as long as possible for the sake of the patient's side effects.  Showalter believes that his research provides doctors with the information they need to determine the best course of treatment.

A long debate for the medical community

The findings, based on a review of approximately 16,000 patients' outcomes, shed light on the side effects of radiation treatment after prostate removal. "What we found is that the addition of radiation therapy after prostatectomy does lead to a noticeable increase in gastrointestinal and genitourinary side effects. However, delaying radiation therapy offers no protective benefit and in fact may increase the risk of gastrointestinal complications," Showalter said. The research also found adjuvant therapy did not increase rates of erectile dysfunction.


The findings inject hard facts into a debate that has long divided the medical community, as many radiation oncologists preferring radiation given soon after prostate removal to kill off any remaining cancer cells as they fear the risk of metastasis. On the other hand, many urologists prefer radiation given later, when prostate-specific antigen tests suggest it's needed, fearing the side effects of radiation.

"Patients should turn to personalized treatment options"

The takeaway for men receiving prostate cancer treatment, Showalter said, is that they should discuss the best strategy with their physicians based on their particular case. "If someone's at generally low risk of prostate cancer reoccurrence and they have low-grade disease, it's probably still reasonable to wait," Showalter adding that once there's a real, compelling reason to deliver radiation, there is not benefit to delaying their radiation”.


Source: Science Daily

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