Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Drugs Give No Advantage to Older Men With Early Prostate Cancer

I certainly don't want to be a harbinger of bad news, but I just came across this post in the Wall Street Journal and thought I should let you know about it.

A cancer diagnosis seems like a call for dramatic action, but sometimes it may be better just to hold off on doing anything. Take the case of early-stage prostate cancer in elderly men.
Despite a lack of evidence, hormone-altering drugs are sometimes given to men with early-stage prostate cancer who don’t want or shouldn’t get therapies. But a study in this week’s JAMA suggests that the drugs don’t do any good as a stand-alone treatment for men with early-stage disease.
The standard options for men with prostate cancer that hasn’t spread to other parts of the body are radiation, surgery or “watchful waiting” — doing nothing, and keeping an eye on the cancer. Watchful waiting can be a good option for older men, because prostate cancer often grows so slowly that it doesn’t wind up causing major problems.
The JAMA study, funded in part by the National Cancer Institute, mined a federal database to come up with nearly 20,000 men aged 66 or older who were diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer between 1992 and 2002 and who did not receive radiation or surgery in the first six months after diagnosis. Follow-up went through 2006.
Forty-one percent of the men (median age: 77) received androgen deprivation therapy, as the drug treatment is known, within six months of diagnosis; the rest had watchful waiting. Overall, the risk of death was the same for men in both groups, even after the researchers adjusted for various differences between the groups.
“People think doing something is better than nothing, but that may not be true,” the lead author, Grace Lu-Yao of Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, told USA Today.

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