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Jury Still Out on Radiation for Early Prostate Cancer
Date:6/7/2011

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, June 6 (HealthDay News) -- There's too little evidence to say definitively whether treating early, localized prostate cancer with radiation is a better option than "watchful waiting," new research finds.

In a study funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), researchers from Tufts University reviewed the available literature on radiation and prostate cancer, including 10 randomized controlled trials and 65 observational studies.

They concluded there was "insufficient evidence" to say with certainty whether radiation treatment compared to watchful waiting is more likely to save lives.

"We just don't have sufficient information to say much of anything," said Dr. Stanley Ip, an assistant professor of medicine at Tufts University Medical Center.

In part, that's because researchers found no randomized controlled trials -- considered the gold standard of research -- that compared radiation therapy with watching waiting, Ip said. Though there were observational studies, those may be biased because men who opt to hold off on treatment may be those whose tumors are lower risk to begin with, he said.

The study is published in the June 6 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Watchful waiting -- which does not involve cancer treatment -- means having regular exams while keeping an eye on the tumor to see if it grows or spreads. It is usually recommended when doctors feel someone's advanced age will allow them to outlive the generally slow-moving cancer or when someone has other conditions that are more likely to prove lethal.

Men who are diagnosed with early prostate cancer -- meaning it's confined to the prostate gland and has not spread -- are confronted with a bewildering array of options for treating it: surgery; radiation; drugs to deprive the tumor of the hormone androgen that may drive its growth; or watchful w
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