ACSH's Dr. Elizabeth Whelan has been pointing out for years that many men receive overly aggressive treatment for low-risk prostate cancer. Her assertion has been backed up again, this time in a study in yesterday's Archives of Internal Medicine. Three-quarters of men with low-risk cancer in the study opted for surgery to remove their prostate or radiation therapy, instead of "watchful waiting" to determine how fast their tumor is growing and whether it will do harm.
"Watchful waiting is a perfectly acceptable alternative in most cases," ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross says. "Most men with prostate cancer die with prostate cancer, not of prostate cancer. And the complications of either surgical or local prostate cancer treatment, including radiation seeds, can be quite devastating. On the other hand most men probably have a very strong — and understandable — urge to get all the cancer out, no matter what stage it's in. That's where a conscientious physician's advice would come into play — counseling the patient about the downsides of aggressive treatment versus careful follow-up."