Tuesday, March 11, 2014

PSA-testing and early treatment decreases risk of prostate cancer death

The study is based on data from nation-wide, population-based registers in Sweden including the Cancer Register, The Cause of Death Register and the National Prostate Cancer Register (NPCR) of Sweden.
“Our results show that prostate cancer mortality was 20 procent lower in counties with the highest incidence of prostate cancer, indicating an early and rapid uptake of PSA testing, compared with counties with a slow and late increase in PSA testing,” says Pär Stattin, lead investigator of the study.
“Since the difference in the number of men diagnosed with prostate cancer is related to how many men undergo PSA testing, we think our data shows that PSA testing and early treatment is related to a modest decrease in risk of prostate cancer death,” says Håkan Jonsson statistician and senior author of the study.
“In contrast to screening in randomized studies our data is based on unorganized, real life PSA testing. We therefore used a statistical method that excludes men that were diagnosed prior to the introduction of PSA testing since these men could not benefit from the effect of PSA testing,” continues Håkan Jonsson.
“The results in our study are very similar to those obtained in a large European randomized clinical study (ERSPC) thus confirming the effect of PSA testing on the risk of prostate cancer death. However, we have to bear in mind that the decrease in mortality is offset by overtreatment and side effects from early treatment. PSA testing sharply increases the risk of overtreatment, i.e. early treatment of cancers that would never have surfaced clinically. We also know that after surgery for prostate cancer most men have decreased erectile function and that a small group of men suffer from urinary incontinence. Our data pinpoints the need for refined methods for PSA testing and improved prostate cancer treatment strategies,” concludes dr Stattin.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Surgery may trump a "watch-and-wait" approach when it comes to treating prostate cancer, especially in younger patients

Surgery may trump a "watch-and-wait" approach when it comes to treating prostate cancer, especially in younger patients, according to a new study.

Death and the spread of cancer were less likely for men who underwent a radical prostatectomy to remove the prostate gland compared to those who didn't -- regardless of age, said study co-author Jennifer Rider, an assistant professor in the department of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.

"And when we looked at subgroups of age, we found the benefit really appeared to be limited to men with the longest life expectancy," she said.

For years, experts have debated how best to treat the disease -- either using a watch-and-wait approach or removing the gland to help reduce the cancer's spread and extend life.

Dr. Jim Hu, director of robotic and minimally invasive surgery in the urology department of the University of California, Los Angeles, said: "There has been considerable controversy in the United States about PSA [prostate specific antigen] screening for prostate cancer and treatment of prostate cancer."

Experts opposed to surgery say many tumors won't become life-threatening and can be monitored with tests from time to time.

The prostate is a small, walnut-shaped gland that sits below a man's bladder. It produces the fluid that nourishes and transports sperm. According to the American Cancer Association, about 233,000 men in the United States will be diagnosed this year with prostate cancer, which can be detected by a PSA test and by a physical exam.

The Harvard researchers, along with colleagues from Uppsala University Hospital in Sweden, used data from a large Scandinavian prostate cancer study to evaluate about 700 men with early prostate cancer to learn more about life expectancy with the disease.

The men were randomly assigned to either surgery or a watchful-waiting group that received no initial treatment. All were under age 75 and had a life expectancy of 10 or more years. The scientists followed them for up to 23 years, through 2012.

The researchers reported in the March 6 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association that about 58 percent of the men in the surgery group and 71 percent of the men in the watchful-waiting group died during the study. Prostate cancer was the cause of 18 percent of deaths in the surgery group and about 28 percent in the watchful-waiting group.

Rider said it's important to note that the men in the study had not had their prostate cancer detected using a PSA test and that the data was collected between 1989 and 1999, when the primary form of detection involved a manual exam by the doctor.

"We know PSA screening advances a man's diagnosis by about five to 10 years," Rider said. "So a man today would have the disease diagnosed earlier in his life than in our study."

Hu said it's also key to keep in mind that prostate cancer is typically a slow-growing tumor.

"A lot of the benefit in treating prostate cancer isn't seen for years," Hu said. This study demonstrates that with a median follow-up of 13.4 years, eight men needed to undergo radical prostatectomy to save one from prostate cancer. That's when they saw the survival benefits for surgery versus watchful waiting. This number will continue to go down with longer follow-up."

Rider also said men over 65 who had surgery were less likely to have their cancer spread. "But we don't know if that translates to a mortality benefit," she said.

It was a nice study design, Hu said. "It shows there is a benefit to treating men with prostate cancer," he said.

But he said the findings differ from another recent study by the U.S. Veteran's Administration hospitals that demonstrated that radical prostatectomy did not appear to have a benefit compared to watchful waiting. He said those results, however, could be because the study involved older participants who had other chronic health problems.

Rider said the study results aren't definitive, but she thinks the findings add important information to the debate.

Reliable pretreatment information assists prostate cancer patients in decision-making

Men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer need to assimilate information rapidly in order to weigh the treatment options and make informed decisions. Although patients consult a variety of information sources, outcome information that is specific to the treating physician leads to greater patient satisfaction following treatment, according to a new study published in The Journal of Urology®.

The benefits of patient information are broad. For many people confronted with a cancer diagnosis, information translates to greater involvement in management decisions, improved ability to cope, reduced anxiety and distress, better communication with family members, and increased satisfaction with treatment choices.

"The availability and quality of information are particularly relevant in prostate cancer, which affects a large number of men and is associated with significant treatment-related side effects. Despite its high prevalence, though, we know relatively little about the use and helpfulness of patient information materials among prostate cancer patients," says lead investigator John T. Wei, MD, MS, of the Department of Urology, University of Michigan Health System, Ann Arbor.

Researchers conducted a prospective, multicenter study on the use of information and satisfaction among a sample of men recently diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer undergoing definitive therapy. Over 1,200 men were enrolled in the PROST-QA (Prostate Cancer Outcomes and Satisfaction with Treatment Quality Assessment) study. Study participants completed several questionnaires before treatment and during follow-up through computer-assisted telephone interviews.

Although nearly 90% of the participants were Caucasian, 135 subjects of minority race also participated. Primary treatment included radical prostatectomy, external beam radiation therapy, or brachytherapy, with or without androgen deprivation therapy.

Researchers found that information sources used by patients varied significantly according to race, education, and study site. The most commonly used source of information was physician description (93.2%), followed by print sources such as pamphlets and brochures (82.5%). The majority of men also used other sources, including websites (68%), family and friends (63.7%), and books on prostate cancer (59.1%). Other sources, such as video media, access to other men treated for prostate cancer, and summaries of physician-specific outcomes were used less often.

The use and helpfulness of different information sources varied by factors such as age, race, education level, income, and marital status. Differences in the use of sources were apparent among men of different backgrounds. In general, younger, non-black, married men with college educations and higher incomes used more sources of information. This was most apparent in the use of Internet-based sources, where there were significant differences among men of different socioeconomic and educational backgrounds. Significant differences were also seen in the use of books, family and friends, and access to other men with previous experience with prostate cancer treatments.

"These differences may be related to knowledge of and access to greater resources, although variation in information seeking behaviors and coping mechanisms among men of different demographic backgrounds cannot be discounted," observes Wei.

"For prostate cancer patients, the impact of treatment on health-related quality of life is an important consideration. Reliable pretreatment information may allow patients to set expectations regarding treatment outcomes and make informed decisions in selecting therapy. Our results indicate that outcome information specific to the treating physician is associated with greater patient satisfaction following treatment, and that this type of information may assist patients in the decision making process," he concludes.