Do you really need prostate surgery?

October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month… and this month is Prostate Cancer Awareness month – dubbed Movember because men world wide grow a mustache to raise awareness about the disease.

The prostate is the cross that all men must bear and this is why familiarising yourself with the function and importance of your prostate is one of the first steps any man can take to prevent prostate-related problems before they make your life a misery.

This is why I’m all for raising awareness among men when it comes to prostate health… because let’s face it, men simply won’t crack up a conversation about their prostate health the first chance they get.

So, here’s my contribution for Movember: bringing you news about the results of a groundbreaking prostate cancer study.

This study is one of the largest and longest studies ever conducted on he topic of the best approach when it comes to treating prostate cancer. The results, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, are quite surprising because they go against the grain of what the mainstream has been doing for years.

Researchers followed 700 men with early-stage prostate cancer who were randomly assigned to receive either prostate surgery or ‘observation’ (also called watchful waiting) – meaning they were monitored and only treated for any bothersome symptoms that showed up.

At the end of the study, men who received surgery didn’t live significantly longer than those who were simply observed.

Okay, you might say that if the survival rate was the same in the two groups of men then the results are not really significant –  because cancer treatments are all about improving survival rates, right?

That might be true, unless you also consider the complications after prostate surgery, like secondary infections, urinary incontinence and impotence. These are things that will affect any man’s manhood… and they could make life after surviving cancer a real misery.

Having said that, the study did show that surgery benefited one group of men in particular: those with intermediate-risk disease, meaning they had more aggressive tumours that were more likely to spread.

What I get from these results is that when you get diagnosed with prostate cancer it’s important to talk to your doctor about watchful waiting as a first option instead of going under the knife immediately. Watchful waiting involves getting regular blood tests and screenings to make sure your cancer isn’t spreading or progressing. In most cases, prostate cancer tumours grow so slowly that you won’t need any treatment at all!

In my opinion, whether you are male or female, fighting cancer starts with awareness and plenty of informed conversations… especially when it comes to your treatment options. Because there may not be a cure for cancer yet, but with continued research everyone of us at least now have options. And that’s a good thing!

To a healthier and happier life,

Thomas Smith