Thousands of men suffer needlessly as prostate cancer surgery is often 'a waste of time'
23:24 GMT, 29 April 2012
Thousands of men are undergoing debilitating surgery for prostate cancer which may be needless, claim scientists.
They say that in many cases the tumours are growing so slowly they do not need to be treated.
A major study has shown that survival
rates of men who had surgery were hardly any higher than patients whose
doctors essentially did nothing.
Cancer: A survey by Everyman shows seventy-three per cent of men didn't know the top three risk factors for prostate cancer, despite it being the most common cancer in men
At present men diagnosed with the
illness are offered surgery to remove the prostate gland, known as a
The operation often has distressing side effects and more than half of men are left impotent and one in ten incontinent.
Now early results from the Prostate
Intervention Versus Observation Trial (PIVOT) suggest that in many cases
surgery is pointless.
The study began in 1994 involving 731 men with prostate cancer whose average age was 68.
They were monitored over the next 12
years and some had surgery while others underwent ‘watchful waiting’
which means their doctors did not treat them.
The results – presented at a meeting
of the European Association of Urology – show that on average the men
undergoing surgery were just 3 per cent more likely to have survived
than the ‘watchful waiting’ group.
However surgery was found to increase
the survival chances of men with the most serious forms of prostate
cancer, the European Association of Urology was told.
Study author Dr Timothy Wilt, of the
University of Minnesota, concluded that surgery did not ‘significantly
reduce prostate cancer mortality’.
Around 37,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in Britain every year and another 10,000 die.
A new study suggests that surgery makes little or no difference to prostate cancer sufferers
But in about 50 per cent of all cases
the tumour is so slow-growing that it does not affect life expectancy –
and the men eventually die of something else.
In last 30 years the increasingly
widespread use of the Prostate Specific Androgen (PSA) test has led to
many more tumours being diagnosed that previously would have gone
Some doctors argue that many of these cancers are harmless and could be left untreated.
Dr Kate Holmes, head of research at The Prostate Cancer Charity, said it was too early to say whether surgery was ineffective.
She added: ‘Early data from the PIVOT
trial certainly suggests that surgery to remove the prostate does not
provide any significant survival benefit for men with low to medium risk
‘However, these findings are from a
large, ongoing trial, and we look forward to seeing the full published
results which could help men in future to make more informed decisions