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Study Backs 'Active Surveillance' for Low-Risk Prostate Cancer
Date:11/30/2010

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Nov. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Using a computer simulation model, researchers say they've determined that relying on "active surveillance" to follow men with low-risk prostate cancer is a "reasonable approach" and alternative to immediate treatment, which can cause unwanted side effects such as incontinence and impotence.

If the tumor were to start growing again, treatment options could include intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), which uses beams of different radiation intensities to limit damage to surrounding areas of the body, the study authors said.

"The intent of this study is to show that, on average, showing average disease-recurrence probabilities, an average rate of side effects and average individual preferences, active surveillance was an option," said Dr. Julia H. Hayes, lead author of the study published in the Dec. 1 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

But the computer model isn't intended to replace personal decision-making for prostate cancer patients, all of whom have vastly different comfort levels when it comes to how they handle their diagnosis of cancer, the researchers said.

Still, the model might serve as a jumping-off point for doctor-patient discussions, and may provide more impetus for men to choose active surveillance and avoid unnecessary treatment, the researchers added.

Each year, some 200,000 U.S. men are diagnosed with prostate cancer. While about 60 percent of those men don't actually need treatment (because their tumors are low risk and localized), more than 90 percent will still be treated, said Hayes, who is a genitourinary oncologist with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Active surveillance involves following men closely with prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests, digital rectal examinations and regular biopsies. If th
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