With an estimated 220,000 American men facing down a prostate cancer diagnosis each year, it’s only natural that most would want to do everything possible to eradicate the disease. Prostate removal, radiation and other forms of treatment have been proven effective in many cases. Radiation, in particular, can be especially helpful in extending survival times for men who face higher risk forms of the disease. And, researchers are finding in some cases more radiation may be even better than standard doses recommended at the present.
Using data from the National Cancer Database, researchers from Penn Medicine took a look at the benefits of increasing the doses of external beam radiation in men with low-, medium- and high-risk forms of the disease. The results were rather eye opening.
Penn Medicine discovered that men with medium- to high-risk forms of the disease who received an incremental increase of radiation saw their mortality rates decline by 7.8 percent and 6.3 percent respectively. There was no significant decrease for men in the low-risk cancer group.
Since external beam radiation used to treat prostate cancer can have some unpleasant side effects, researchers say their findings are best applied on a case-by-case basis. Men in the higher risk and intermediate groups may indeed benefit from a life-prolonging benefit promoted by increased radiation doses. They, however, may also see their risk for incontinence, impotence and side effects rise. Men in the low risk group may want to carefully review all of their treatment options, including active surveillance, before pursuing a single course of action.
Men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer should discuss all treatment options with their healthcare providers. It is also very important for men to understand the risks associated with various treatment options and the potential rewards those options may deliver. In some cases, more, as it turns out, may indeed be more. In others, the risk of side effects may outweigh any potential benefit.