When Dr. Herbert Lepor, chair of the department of urology at New York University Langone Medical Centre, said that “the majority of prostate cancers… are not significant,” and “they would be best not diagnosed” many mainstream doctors were taken aback. After all, everything we hear about cancer prevention says that early detection and intervention saves lives, right?
However, now a new study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, is saying something that might startle you… even more so if you are a man.
Prostate cancer overkill
“Too many men are being treated for prostate cancer.” Those are the words of Dr. Karim Chamie, a urology professor at the University of California and the lead researcher of this latest study.
What makes matters even worse is that the majority of those men are being hustled into immediately starting toxic radiation treatments for no valid reason.
In this latest study, the researchers looked at 38,000 men over 65 who were diagnosed with prostate cancer over a three-year period. Dr. Chamie and his team set out to discover why more men don’t use a wait-and-watch approach before starting any treatment (something he, and many other experts, regard as a much better option).
The results showed that only 10 per cent of those men didn’t immediately have surgery or radiation… and nearly 60 per cent, started straight away with radiation therapy.
Dr. Chamie said that once a patient is seen by a radiation specialist, the odds are “extremely high” they are going to get radiation. And this “choice” had almost nothing to do with how advanced (or not) their cancer was. Even scarier, age, how aggressive a cancer is, or even any other medical condition played no role in the decision making process.
Dr. Chamie added that the patient and his condition “contribute very little to the decision-making process.”
In fact, according to Dr. Chamie it all comes down to the specialist you’re referred to – and whatever treatment brings in the most money.
He also noted that radiation brings in more money for doctors than surgery. And that’s something he believes also plays a role in the decision.
Of course this money-driven decision making starts long before the diagnosis. It starts with that other “cash cow,” the PSA test… Recently, the US Preventive Services Task Force stopped advising men (of any age) to have routine screenings for prostate cancer.
The group believes it leads to “considerable over diagnosis.” And it noted that the “harm” of treatments (like radiation) “outweigh the benefits.”
The group also said that most of the cancers detected by PSA screenings would never have caused problems for the patient in the first place.
But surgery and radiation, on the other hand, are a different story.
These “treatments” can cause incontinence, impotence, bowel dysfunction, and even death. That’s because the treatment a man with prostate cancer gets can end up killing him long before the disease ever would.
Dr. Chamie’s approach to slow-growing prostate cancer is “active surveillance.” Recent research from Harvard suggests that may also be the best method not only for men with “low risk” cancers, but even more advanced ones.
So before you let your doctor fast-track you into receiving surgery or radiation to treat prostate cancer – or even having a biopsy done after a PSA test – the best course of action may be to stop, take a deep breath, and get another opinion.
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Disclaimer: Bear in mind the material contained in this article is provided for information purposes only. We are not addressing anyone’s personal situation. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.
“Too many prostate cancer patients being treated?” Randy Dotinga, February 19, 2015, Web MD, webmd.com
“Radiation used in too many men with indolent prostate cancer” Pam Harrison, February 23, 2015, Medscape, medscape.com
“New outsourcing frontier in India: Monitoring drug safety” Sean McLain, February 1, 2015, The Wall Street Journal, wsj.com