Radiation therapy for recurring prostate cancer

Men who have their prostates removed may benefit from radiation therapy if their cancer returns, according to a new study.

Experts say about 30,000 men in the United States who undergo surgery to have their prostates removed will have their cancer return.

Researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine and the Methodist Hospital in Houston studied more than 500 men with prostate cancer. All the men in the study first had a radical prostatectomy and also underwent radiotherapy when their cancer came back.

Researchers found after nearly four years, 50 percent of patients had their disease progress after receiving radiation. Ten percent of patients had their cancer spread to distant organs, and 4 percent of patients died from prostate cancer during the study. Researchers say these results show radiation after surgery could prevent prostate cancer from progressing.

Results of the study also show the four-year progression-free probability for patients in the study was about 45 percent.

Authors of the study write, “The clinical implications of our findings are that locally recurrent prostate cancer appears to be more common than previously reported, that it is frequently associated with aggressive features, and that salvage radiotherapy [radiation after surgery] offers the possibility of cure for a substantial proportion of patients.”

In an accompanying editorial, Mitchell S. Anscher, M.D., from Duke University Medical Center, says the most important finding from the study is early treatment is better for prostate cancer patients. He writes, “Salvage radiation therapy after radical prostatectomy is a treatment that is used too infrequently and too late in the course of the disease. This is particularly true for patients who might benefit the most.”

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