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Discovery, especially in medicine, is a remarkable thing. After all, data-driven findings lead to changes in health care that can save— and extend —lives. So is the case in a new landmark, three-decade long study published by the New England Journal of Medicine showing that prostate-removal surgery increased the life expectancy of men with high-risk or advanced prostate cancer by three years compared to men who did not get surgery.
World-renowned urologist and surgeon, Vipul Patel, MD, FACS, Medical Director of the Global Robotics Institute, explains why this study is so important and how the information gleaned can help protect men’s whole health.
What This Study Means for Men
“This is truly a landmark article that followed men for 29 years and specifically compared the outcomes of prostate-removal surgery vs. no surgery to treat prostate cancer. It provides clearer direction as to which men should be treated for prostate cancer surgically and which patients may benefit most from careful observation, ” explains Dr. Patel.
He adds, “Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for men, yet screening and treatment recommendations have lagged behind. This study shows that for men with lower risk or very early stage prostate cancer, active surveillance may be all that they need, but for men with more advanced or high-risk prostate cancer, there is a proven increase in life expectancy with a prostatectomy [surgical removal of the prostate].”
Why Prostate Screenings Are Important
Dr. Patel shares that for men, the message is clear: prostate cancer screenings are important.
“Screenings allow us to assess men’s prostate cancer risk and develop a plan of action that will provide the best options for them,” advises Dr. Patel.
“If we more routinely screen men for prostate cancer we can diagnose early-stage prostate cancer and actively keep an eye on any progression, but if screening leads to a higher-risk or intermediate prostate cancer finding, then we know that immediate surgery is likely the best treatment option for improved long-term outcomes.”
Without routine screenings, however, prostate cancer risk and diagnosis can go unnoticed.
“If prostate cancer is not diagnosed until it is more advanced and has metastasized to other parts of the body, then even with surgery, it’s harder to cure. They key to this is finding it before it’s aggressive, and we achieve this with appropriate screening,” says Dr. Patel.
Helping Men Assess Their Prostate Cancer Risk
“Not every man that’s diagnosed with prostate cancer needs treatment immediately. We have to assess each patient and make recommendations based on individual risk. Today, we have many tools available to do this with genetic testing, as well as MRI and CAT scans. When we do this correctly, we treat the patients who need to be treated,” explains Dr. Patel.
Men fall into the higher-risk category if they:
- Have a family history of prostate cancer
- Have a high PSA score
- Are African American
- Are younger in age
- Are diagnosed with a more aggressive type of prostate cancer
Men with lower-risk cancers are often older at the age of diagnosis and/or have early stage, low-risk tumors. For these patients, this study supports close observation and monitoring in lieu of surgery.
“If the tumor becomes high-risk over time, surgical treatment may then be a treatment option,” says Dr. Patel.
Advocating for Patient-Directed Care
While this study helps experts such as Dr. Patel formulate his treatment recommendations and protocols, he introduces an important point: this information also helps patients make more informed choices in their care.
“Prostate cancer screening helps patients understand their risk, as well as know if they have cancer. With this, we can help them interpret their options and they can partner with us to make the best decision about their own life. If we catch it early, they have more choices about their care, but if we find the cancer too late, there are fewer choices to make,” Dr. Patel explains.
Trusting World-Renowned Experts
When it comes to your whole health, it’s important to seek help from an expert team, like Dr. Patel’s. In fact, he leads one of the world’s most experienced robotic surgery teams in urology and travels around the world to educate physicians and care for patients.
“We have the most experienced team in the world having completed nearly 12,000 prostatectomies to treat prostate cancer through a minimally invasive approach,” Dr. Patel humbly states.
Surgery time is one to one and a half hours and most patients go home the next day.
“Our level of expertise is clearly tied to our patients’ positive outcomes. Our cure rates are excellent, and most patients have short recovery times with a high quality of life after surgery. Patients travel from all over the world take advantage of our experience, and for that we are grateful,” states Dr. Patel.
Dr. Patel’s Message to You
Dr. Patel concludes, “Talk to your doctors about your prostate cancer screening recommendations, especially if you have high-risk factors. With earlier evaluation and diagnosis, we can guide men on the path to the right interventions and save lives,” says Dr. Patel.
Learn more about Dr. Patel’s expert urology team and the Global Robotics Institute