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Radiation Treatments Cause More Problems For Prostate Cancer Patients Than Surgery, Study Finds

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Many people — and many doctors — prefer the idea of any treatment that doesn’t involve surgery, which can be both expensive and dangerous. But a recent study finds that men suffering from prostate cancer may face less risk by undergoing surgery instead of radiation treatments.

The new study, which was recently published by the journal Lancet Oncology and involved more than 32,000 men studied over an eight-year period (2002-2009), found that men who were treated using radiotherapy typically underwent fewer invasive urological procedures in the immediate period following treatment.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that, in the long run, those patients who opted for surgery visited the hospital less, underwent fewer total procedures, and stood a better chance of avoiding unwanted secondary cancers.

In fact, the study found that almost one in twenty patients who underwent radiation treatment suffered secondary cancers within five to nine years after initial treatment. In comparison, less than one in fifty patients who underwent surgery faced the onset of secondary cancers.

Toronto-based urologic oncologist Dr. Robert Nam, a lead researcher for the study, said that up to 30 per cent of patients who underwent radiation treatment had some kind of “procedure-related” complication. Nam added that his research team “knew about this happening,” but said “we never knew the severity or the number.”

Bob Maurice, a 78-year-old man from Penetanguishene, Ontario, is well aware of the risks of radiation treatment. He opted to treat his prostate cancer with radiation instead of surgery in 2005. Maurice says he regretted that decision almost immediately. “I had four really bad years where I was in and out of hospitals,” Maurice said. “It was pretty tough.”

In 2010 Maurice decided to have surgery to correct the issue. “I feel great,” he said. “I’m very thankful that I’ve reached this point in my life where I can function like a normal human being.”

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