More than 225,000 American men are diagnosed with prostate cancer and more than 27,000 die of the disease each year. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in men. For men older than 65, many physicians have employed “watchful waiting” rather than aggressive cancer therapy after the disease is diagnosed. Watchful waiting involves monitoring the cancer but employing no real treatment for the disease. The theory is that prostate cancers often grow so slowly that the older patient will likely die of something else before the prostate cancer becomes fatal. In younger patients, more aggressive therapy, including surgery and/or radiation, is usually employed.
In December 2006, the Journal of the American Medical Association published the results of a study which tracked over 44,000 men ages 65-80 who were diagnosed with early prostate cancer between the years 1991-1999. The individuals were followed until 2002. The results of the study indicated that those patients who underwent more aggressive treatment had a 30% lower death rate than those patients utilizing watchful waiting. Although more aggressive treatment can cause complications, including incontinence and impotence, the study indicates long term survival can be significantly enhanced with aggressive treatment.
The decision regarding the treatment mode belongs to the patient with proper advice from the physician. In our practice, we have seen too many cases where a physician has failed to perform proper testing to detect the existence of prostate cancer while it can still be treated. If you have questions or concerns about whether your prostate cancer was properly and timely diagnosed or treated, you should contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney.