New study finds that stress and anxiety could prompt prostate cancer patients to choose surgery over active surveillance
The study was conducted by researchers from the University at Buffalo and Roswell Park Cancer
Institute in Buffalo, New York, in the USA.
Researchers looked at over 1,500 male subjects who’d just been diagnosed with localised prostate cancer
. They found that the study subjects were more likely to choose radiation therapy and surgery than active surveillance, also known as “watchful waiting”.
For if you don’t know, active surveillance is an approach that doctors sometimes recommend to prostate cancer
patients that refers to close monitoring of the patient but no treatment.
Because prostate cancer
often grows very slowly, some men – especially older men or men with serious health issues – may never need treatment or surgery, which makes active surveillance a considerable option for some men.
The researchers wrote, “Men's level of emotional distress shortly after diagnosis predicted greater likelihood of choosing surgery over active surveillance.”
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“Importantly, this was true among men with low-risk disease, for whom active surveillance may be a clinically viable option and side effects of surgery might be avoided,” they added.
While the researchers were able to find a strong link between anxiety
and more aggressive prostate cancer
treatment, they weren’t able to prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
Prostate cancer patients should be provided with clearer information about prognosis and strategies for dealing with anxiety, study author says
Study author Heather Orom, an associate professor of community health and health behaviour at the University at Buffalo, said in a news release, “Emotional distress may motivate men with low-risk prostate cancer to choose more aggressive treatment.
“If distress early on is influencing treatment choice, then maybe we help men by providing clearer information about prognosis and strategies for dealing with anxiety. We hope this will help improve the treatment decision-making process and ultimately, the patient's quality of life,” Orom added.
Researchers stressed that overtreatment of prostate cancer is a great concern because radiation therapy and surgery can cause very serious side effects, from incontinence to erectile dysfunction. If men with low-risk prostate cancer choose active surveillance over these treatment options, they can avoid these problems, researchers reported.
“The goal of most physicians treating men with prostate cancer is to help their patients and family members through a difficult process and help their patients receive appropriate treatment,” study co-author Dr Willie Underwood III, an associate professor in Roswell Park's department of urology said.
“To do so, it is helpful for physicians to better understand what is motivating men's decisions and to address negative motivators such as emotional distress to prevent men from receiving a treatment that they don't need or will later regret,” Dr Underwood concluded.