Researchers at two major medical centers have found that radiation therapy is just as successful as surgery in treating younger men with early-stage prostate cancer. Currently, men 60 years old or under with prostate cancer are far more likely to be treated with surgery than with radiation therapy.
The two studies were conducted at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia and Stanford University Medical Center, Stanford, California. Results were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO) in Miami Beach, Florida.
Fox Chase Study
In the Fox Chase study, cure rates were analyzed for 459 men with early-stage prostate cancer treated only with radiation therapy. Those men under the age of 60 have done as well as the older men up to 5 years after treatment, according to radiation oncologists Drs. Gerald Hanks and Gary Freedman, research team members.
Dr. Freedman said that, based on the study results, "radiation therapy shouldn't be discounted as a treatment for early-stage prostate cancer simply because the patient is a younger man."
Nationwide, from 1984 to 1991 the number of men under the age of 70 with early-stage prostate cancer undergoing surgery rose from 22% to 57%, while the number of men having radiation therapy declined from 35% to 21%, according to Dr. Freedman. "Our study adds to the body of evidence that radiation therapy offers an equal chance for cure as surgery in the treatment of early-stage prostate cancer."
Based on the results of the Fox Chase study, he added, "we believe that men of any age can be offered various treatment options including radiation therapy."
In the Stanford study, meanwhile, patients age 60 or younger with early-stage prostate cancer who were treated with radiation also did as well--or better in many cases--than older men treated in the same manner. Overall, 396 early-stage prostate cancer patients--110 of them age 60 or under--were studied.
The study was based on an average follow-up of 18 years, according to radiation oncologist Dr. Joseph Poen, a research team member. "Our study results contradict arguments that radiation therapy only controls prostate cancer for a limited period of time," he maintained.
Dr. Poen said that some physicians believe that younger men who would normally have a life expectancy greater than 10 years require surgery for lasting control of the disease. As a result of this belief, most younger patients have been referred for radical prostatectomy. But the fact is, the Stanford study shows that radiation therapy does have long-lasting positive results in treating early-stage prostate cancer, he said.