According to a new UCSF study, older men are not provided the same treatment options for prostate cancer when compared to their younger counterparts. Older patients are more likely to receive less effective and fewer treatment options. It is likely, for this reason, that older patients exhibit a higher mortality rate from this disease. However, these findings may not necessarily be due to discrimination, but could actually be due to historical and obsolete assumptions in regards to prostate cancer.
Prostate Cancer is Slow Growing
Prostate cancer is the leading cause of cancer related deaths of men in the United States, second only to lung cancer. It is a deadly and extremely slow growing disease. Men can have malignant cells for years or decades before any signs of the cancer emerge. For example, malignant prostate cancer cells have been found in a boy as young as fourteen. If the young boy had lived, it would be years before the cancer had developed; if it developed at all.
Furthermore, for years, treatment options for prostate cancer have not been the most effective, and due to the slow growth of the disease some have argued that older men that are diagnosed with this tumor are not likely to suffer as much as a man who is diagnosed at a younger age.
However, this is not the case. Older patients are more likely to have a highly aggressive tumor at time of diagnosis that needs to be treated. Treatment options have improved greatly, and can provide a significant increase in the lifespan of older patients. As the UCSF study indicates, these views of prostate cancer, in regards, to age, must change.
Higher Diagnosis in Older Men, Less treatment Options
Using the Cancer of the Prostate Strategic Urologic Research Endeavor (CaPSURE) database, researchers studied a large registry of men diagnosed with prostate cancer across the United States. They found over sixty percent of the newly diagnosed patients to occur past the age 65 and twenty-four percent past the age 75. However, their treatment options were limited compared to the younger patients.
This is unacceptable to researchers, because data has shown that decreased treatment is likely the cause of the higher mortality rate of prostate cancer in older patients. Additionally, using more aggressive treatment options in older patients, a forty-six percent decrease in mortality can occur.
A disconnect that must be repaired
Not only must the treatment options for older patients improve, but also clinical research must improve as well. Most clinical trials strictly focus on younger patients. According to the researchers, age is not an indicator of prostate cancer mortality, which indicates that a large population subset of prostate cancer patients is needlessly being ignored. Elder patients deserve effective care but can also provide essential data in clinical trials, playing an important role in the discovery of future treatment options for prostate cancer.
You can read the original EurekAlert! press release, Age plays too big a role in prostate cancer treatment decisions.