New data has revealed that undergoing surgery may extend life expectancy in men diagnosed with prostate cancer — though researchers claim these findings may be obviated by modern treatment methods.
Historical Fact Through The Lens of Modern Treatment
The facts are in: after identifying nearly 700 men diagnosed with cancer from October 1989 through February of 1999, and then following up with these men through 2017, scientists have found that prostate cancer patients that were treated with surgery during this time survived on average longer than those that didn’t undergo surgery. The results show, historically, that surgery is, and always has been, an effective method for treating prostate cancer in an historical setting.
However, it’s important to view this historical data through the lens of modern treatment — something that the authors of the study are quick to point out. Don’t expect doctors to begin pushing older, antiquated methods of surgery more as a result of this study — the truth is that while surgery has been the best way to extend life expectancy, newer surgical methods for treating prostate cancer such as a robotic prostatectomy, have changed in immeasurable ways since then. Most of those methods have, in fact, downplayed the necessity of older methods of surgery as a life-extending treatment.
Modern Methods Remain More Effective
The researchers behind the study have been honest about their findings in that they’re more of historical interest than anything else because the ability for medical science to detect prostate cancer in the 1980s and 1990s is practically primitive to our ability to do the same today. A generation ago, diagnosing prostate cancer was much more difficult, which led to cancers only being detected after cancers had progressed to above a much higher threshold — these more advanced cancers thus necessitated surgery to treat.
Today, however, our ability to detect prostate cancer much earlier means that newer treatment methods are wider and more varied. Screening for prostate-specific antigen (PSA) content in blood tests can indicate risk factors for prostate cancer much more accurately, and much earlier, than the testing methods of the 1980s and 1990s, for example. Today, surgery is usually only reserved for much more aggressive cancer types, and only after other, less invasive treatment methods have been exhausted.
In other words, don’t panic: while it may have been true that older surgery methods might have added a few years to your life on average back in 1989, modern surgical methods will provide even better survivability today.