The majority of men with early-stage, low- to moderate-grade prostate cancer die from other causes, which indicates that they would benefit from ongoing screening and prevention for cardiovascular disease and other health conditions, according to the results of a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society.
Early prostate cancer refers to prostate cancer that has not spread from the prostate to distant sites in the body but is limited to the prostate and nearby lymph nodes. Standard therapy for early prostate cancer may include surgery, radiation therapy, conservative management (no treatment until disease progression), and hormone therapy. Optimal treatment for early prostate cancer is still under debate, though it appears that individualized approaches may provide the best outcomes. Several variables are considered when selecting treatment options for early prostate cancer; these include age, aggressiveness of cancer, extent of spread, other existing medical conditions, and side effects of therapy.
Prostate cancer is typically a disease of aging. It may persist undetected for many years without causing symptoms. In fact, most men die with prostate cancer, not from prostate cancer. Furthermore, advances in screening and prevention have allowed for earlier detection of the disease, which means men are living with a cancer diagnosis for longer periods of time.
Researchers at the University of Texas used data from 11 regions of the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Tumor Registry to analyze the outcomes of men diagnosed with prostate cancer. The analysis included 208,601 men ages 65-84 who had been diagnosed between 1988 and 2002. Overall, 59.1% of the group had early-stage prostate cancer with low- to moderate-grade tumors. The survival rate of this group was similar to that of men the same age without prostate cancer. In fact, five years after the diagnosis of prostate cancer, mortality from the disease was 2.1% compared with 6.4% from cardiovascular disease and 3.8% from other cancers.
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The researchers concluded that “the diagnosis of localized, or low- to moderate-grade, prostate cancer has a small effect on life expectancy.” Based on their observations, cardiovascular disease and other illnesses were a more significant threat. They suggest that men in this population still need to focus on the screening and prevention of other diseases in order to manage their overall health.
 Ketchandji M, Kuo YF, Shahinian VB, et al. Cause of death in older men after the diagnosis of prostate cancer. Journal of the American Geriatric Society. 2009; 57:24-30.
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