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The risk of death over 15 years for men with intermediate-risk prostate cancers who chose close monitoring of their disease was nearly four times higher compared to men with low-risk disease, according to the study.
Researchers analyzed data from 945 prostate cancer patients in Canada between 1995 and 2013. All had chosen active surveillance -- also called watchful waiting -- of their disease. Almost 250 of the men had intermediate-risk prostate cancer. About 700 had low-risk cancer.
If cancer got worse during watchful waiting, patients were offered radiation therapy or surgery. Eighty-six men in the intermediate-risk group received treatment, according to the researchers.
Overall survival rates after 10 and 15 years were 68 percent and 50 percent for intermediate-risk patients. That compared to 84 and 69 percent for low-risk patients, the study noted.
Overall, the researchers found that patients with intermediate-risk disease were almost 4 times more likely to die than those with low-risk disease.
The study is scheduled to be presented at an upcoming American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting.
"For low-risk patients with prostate cancer managed with active surveillance, the risk of dying of prostate cancer is low, validating this approach for this group of patients," Dr. D. Andrew Loblaw, a radiation oncologist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, said in an ASCO news release.
But, he added, more research is needed to figure out which intermediate-risk patients can safely be monitored and which patients need treatment sooner.
This is the first study to compare long-term outcomes of low- and intermediate-risk prostate cancer patients on active surveillance, according to Loblaw and his colleagues.
Active surveillance is considered a standard approach for prostate cancer patients with low-risk disease, as well as for some intermediate-risk patients, the researchers said.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: American Society for Clinical Oncology, news release, Feb. 23, 2015