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According to results published in the Journal of Urology, surgery to remove the prostate may provide benefit in terms of progression-free survival in patients with prostate cancer that returns within the prostate following treatment with radiation therapy.

Prostate cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in men in the United States. The prostate is a walnut sized gland that is located between the bladder and rectum. It is responsible for the formation of a liquid that is a component of semen. Early prostate cancer refers to cancer that has not spread from the prostate. Two of the most commonly used treatments for early prostate cancer are radiation to the prostate or the surgical removal of the prostate (prostatectomy). Following radiation therapy, cancer within the prostate may persist, or return following treatment. If the cancer has not spread from the prostate, surgery to remove the prostate and remaining cancer may be beneficial; however, this treatment option is still under investigation.

Researchers from the Naval Medical Center in Virginia recently analyzed data from 138 patients with prostate cancer that recurred following radiation therapy. All patients were initially treated with radiation therapy for early prostate cancer, followed by surgery to remove the prostate (prostatectomy) after a cancer recurrence within the prostate. At 10 years, the cancer-specific survival (patients who did not die from prostate cancer) was 77%, and the average duration of progression-free survival was 8.7 years. Patients with more aggressive and extensive cancers had worse outcomes than their counterparts.

The researchers concluded that a prostatectomy appears to provide benefit in patients with prostate cancer who have a cancer recurrence following radiation therapy. Future trials are necessary to directly compare treatment with a prostatectomy to other treatment options in this patient population to truly define its clinical benefit. Patients with recurrent prostate cancer that is confined to the prostate following radiation therapy may wish to speak with their physician regarding their individual risks and benefits of a prostatectomy.

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Reference: Ward J, Sebo T, Blute M, et al. Salvage surgery for radiorecurrent prostate cancer: contemporary outcomes. Journal of Urology. 2005; 173:1156-1160.

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