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Men With Low-Risk Prostate Cancer Should Delay Treatment, Says Panel

Group suggests monitoring disease instead

Men with low-risk prostate cancer should postpone treatment and instead monitor the disease to see if it progresses or gets worse, says a committee of experts convened by the federal government. More than half of the approximately 240,000 American men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year are considered low-risk.

Man being examined by doctor

In most cases, aggressive treatment of low-risk prostate cancer is unnecessary. — Edward McCain/Getty Images

See also: 5 ways to help prevent prostate cancer

This news follows several recent studies that suggest many men are over-screened for prostate cancer and often choose treatment for a slow-growing cancer that may not have caused serious harm during their lifetimes. Surgery and radiation therapy may worsen quality of life while not increasing chances of survival, said the panel.

According to a Washington Post article, the two strategies recommended by the 14-member committee, which convened at the National Institutes of Health, are “active surveillance” and “watchful waiting.” With “active surveillance,” patients undergo periodic physical exams, prostate biopsies and PSA tests, and can opt for treatment if the tumor begins to grow quickly. In the second, “watchful waiting,” patients undergo treatment when they experience symptoms.

“Our panel found that men with localized and low-risk prostate cancer should be closely monitored, permitting their treatment to be delayed until warranted by disease progression,” said Dr. Patricia Ganz, a physician at the University of California at Los Angeles who headed the committee, in an NIH release.

"Prostate cancer affects some 30-40 percent of men over the age of 50. Some of these men will benefit from immediate treatment, others will benefit from observation. We need to standardize definitions, group patients by their risks and conduct additional research to determine the best protocols for managing low-risk disease," said Ganz.

Also of interest: Aspirin may reduce prostate cancer deaths. >>

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