A new study has shocked experts by showing that prostate cancer surgery is no more effective than simply leaving the cancer alone.
The world’s biggest randomised trial of prostate cancer has found that the standard surgical treatment for the disease is ineffective.
Prostate cancer surgery is no more effective than 'watchful waiting'
The Prostate Intervention Versus Observation Trial (PIVOT) compared surgical removal of the prostate gland with ‘watchful waiting’- doing nothing. The results showed that surgery did not extend life.
Timothy Wilt, lead author of the study, followed 731 men for 12 years. Those who underwent the surgical procedure had less than a three per cent survival benefit compared with those who had no treatment. This difference could have arisen by chance.
When the findings were presented at a meeting of the European Association of Urology in Paris in February, attended by 11,000 specialists from around the world, they were greeted with a stunned silence.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, with about 37,000 diagnosed with the disease in the UK each year. Unlike many other cancers, in up to 50% of cases it is slow growing so that patients affected can live for many years and not die from the cancer.
In fact, some specialists are questioning whether these cases qualify for the label ‘cancer’ at all.
Surgery carries a risk of side effects that can have a serious impact on quality of life with 50 per cent of men suffering impotence and 10 per cent incontinence. Consequently, experts are now looking into other therapies, like targeted ultrasound treatment.
Dr Kate Holmes, head of research at The Prostate Cancer Charity, said: "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 about treatment.”
If you want to be covered for prostate cancer treatment on your private medical insurance, make sure you compare health insurance policies with full cancer cover.
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