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Is Radiation Necessary After a Prostatectomy?

When prostate cancer is the diagnosis, many men will find their doctors recommending complete removal of the gland to increase their odds of beating the disease and preventing recurrence. Additional treatment, however, may be indicated to ensure that cancer cells are indeed gone and will stay that way.

That’s why radiation therapy following a prostatectomy is often recommended either immediately or within a few months or a year after surgery. Targeted radiation provides an extra layer of protection that can increase survivability while lowering recurrence risks.

Just when a man should undergo radiation following surgery, however, has long been a bone of contention between urologists and oncologists. Urologists often recommend taking a wait-and-see approach to see if follow-up PSA tests indicate a need for radiation. Oncologists prefer more immediate action to better ensure cancer cells are eradicated.

So, which route is best?

New studies out of the University of Virginia have shed light on this topic. While urologists recommend the waiting approach to help lessen side effect risks, oncologists say the benefits outweigh any drawbacks. Hard facts about the side effects involved, however, hadn’t been available to lend weight to either side of the issue until the studies were performed.

After looking into the medical charts of 16,000 patients prostate cancer patients, researchers found that early intervention does not lead to increased risk for impotence or incontinent. It can, however, provide a beneficial protective effect.

The bottom line is that men should carefully review their treatment options with their doctors. The best strategy to take will depend on the specific case at hand. If there’s a low risk of recurrence and the staging is low-grade, waiting and seeing might still be a solid choice. Should recurrence be a real concern, immediate radiation can prove highly effective while delivering a greater chance for a cure.

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