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Surgery Helps With Prostate Cancer, Sometimes
Date:8/12/2008

New study fails to settle question about best treatment for the disease

TUESDAY, Aug. 12 (HealthDay News) -- The latest update from a European study that has followed men with prostate cancer for more than a decade leaves the debate about the advantages of aggressive treatment versus "watchful waiting" undecided.

The advantage in survival seen for men who underwent surgery to remove the prostate disappeared after 10 years. While deaths attributed to cancer continued to be lower among those having surgery, the overall death rate for both groups was the same, according to the researchers with the Scandinavian Prostate Cancer Group.

The meaning of the study for men now being diagnosed with prostate cancer is uncertain, because the study began before the use of testing for prostate-specific antigen, today's primary method of diagnosis, the researchers added.

"In settings with a large proportion of PSA-detected tumors, the relative reduction in risk of death following radical prostatectomy [removal of the gland] might be somewhat larger or similar to that in our study, but the absolute reduction would be smaller," they wrote.

The findings were published online Aug. 12 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Yu-Ning Wong, an oncologist at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, said it's "unclear how these results apply to the patients we are taking care of today. They show how many questions remain unanswered."

Wong led a study that found an apparent benefit in survival for men who had aggressive surgical treatment of early prostate cancer. But it wasn't a randomized, controlled trial -- the gold standard for medical research.

"Basically, I don't think we know the right answer about what to do," she said.

Prostate cancer is diagnosed in about one of every six American men. There's currently no way to distinguish between a cancer that will grow so
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