Prostate cancer surgery ‘has little or no benefit’ in extending life of patients

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  • The study compared surgically removing prostate gland with ‘watchful waiting’
  • Some experts now questioning whether disease should even be called cancer
  By Pamela Owen

New research into prostate cancer has revealed that surgery has little or no benefit in extending the life of a patient.

The study, which has not yet been published, compared surgically removing the prostate gland with ‘watchful waiting’ and found there was little difference between the two.

Experts are believed to be ‘shaken’ by the news because thousands of men could have gone through painful and unnecessary surgery

One expert, who did not want to be named, told the Independent newspaper: ‘The only rational response to these results is, when presented with a patient with prostate cancer, to do nothing.’

The Prostate Intervention Versus Observation Trust (PIVOT), led by Timothy Wilt, started in 1993 and analysed 731 patients over 12 years.

It found that those who had an operation to treat the cancer had less than three per cent chance of survival compared with those who had no treatment.

The results were presented at a meeting of the European Association of Urology in Paris in February and were met with a stunned silence.

One urologist said that it definitely was not a finding the medics would be eagerly tweeting about.

Cancer of the prostate is the most common male cancer and affects 37,000 men every year with up to 10,000 deaths.

In half of all cases it is slow growing with suffers living for many years and often dying of another disease.

It is believed some specialists are now questioning whether the disease should be considered a cancer at all.

The surgery, known as radical prostatectomy, can often leave patients impotent or incontinent.

However a consultant urologist at Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Trust said he did not believe that nothing should be done.

He said that many older men would with a lower-risk would not normally be offered surgery in the UK and would be offered radiotherapy or ‘watchful waiting’.

Dr Kate Holmes, head of research at the The Prostate Cancer Charity, said: ‘Early data from the Pivot trial certainly suggests that surgery to remove the prostate does not provide any significant survival benefit for men with low to medium risk of prostate cancer.

‘However, 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.’

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