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According to a recent article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, radiation therapy is effective for treating cancer recurrences following a prostatectomy in patients with prostate cancer.

The prostate is a walnut-sized male sex gland that is located between the bladder and rectum. The prostate is responsible for secreting a substance that forms a component of semen. Treatment options are varied for patients with prostate cancer, often depending upon the stage, or extent, of the disease. Patients diagnosed with prostate cancer that has not spread to distant sites in the body may opt to undergo the surgical removal of their prostate, a procedure called a prostatectomy. Patients who experience a cancer recurrence following a prostatectomy are often treated with hormone therapy, a treatment which reduces the levels of active male hormones, particularly testosterone, in the body. However, the optimal therapeutic approach for patients with a cancer recurrence following a prostatectomy has not been definitively defined.

Researchers from Memorial Sloan-Kettering, University of Texas-Southwestern, Cleveland Clinic, University of Florida, and Baylor College of Medicine pooled their data involving patients treated with radiation therapy following a prostatectomy. The data included 501 men who had recurrent prostate cancer following a prostatectomy, and received radiation therapy for their cancer recurrence between 1987 and 2002. With an average follow-up of nearly 4 years (45 months), approximately half of all patients had remained cancer-free following radiation therapy. Only 4% of patients had died from prostate cancer within that time. Factors associated with an increased rate of a cancer recurrence following radiation therapy included a high Gleason score (scale indicating the aggressiveness of cancer), positive surgical margins (cancer cells found on the edges of the removed prostate and/or surrounding tissues), high prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels prior to radiation therapy, PSA doubling time (the rate in which a PSA level doubles), and cancer spread to the seminal vesicles.

The researchers concluded that treatment with radiation therapy for a cancer recurrence following a prostatectomy achieves sustained cancer-free and overall survival. Patients with a cancer recurrence following a prostatectomy may wish to speak with their physician about the risks and benefits of treatment with radiation therapy.

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Reference: Stephenson AJ, Shariat SF, Zelefsky MJ, et al. Salvage Radiotherapy for Recurrent Prostate Cancer after Radical Prostatectomy. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2004;291:1325-1332

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