Thousands of men could be spared the ordeal of having radiotherapy after surgery for prostate cancer, scientists said last night.
The treatment is used to eradicate cancer cells and to try to ensure tumours do not return. But research in The Lancet found there was no benefit.
Academics at University College London said radiotherapy performed later, at the first sign of cancer coming back, had equally good outcomes. It means many of the roughly 15,000 men a year who have the treatment could avoid it – and side-effects such as impotence and incontinence.
Thousands of men could be spared the ordeal of having radiotherapy after surgery for prostate cancer, scientists said last night
Dr Claire Vale, who led the review, said: 'Our findings suggest that following surgery, patients whose cancer is confined to the prostate, or has spread only to nearby tissues or organs, can safely be spared routine post-operative radiotherapy and its associated side-effects. Radiotherapy need only be given to men if they show early signs that the cancer may be returning.
'Guidelines and policy regarding the standard of care for prostate cancer should be updated based on the findings.'
The team combined data from patients in the UK, France, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Denmark and Ireland, to investigate the optimal timing of radiotherapy.
The results included 2,153 men enrolled across three trials – 1,075 had radiotherapy straight after surgery, and another 1,078 had 'early salvage' radiotherapy, where treatment is delayed until signs of the disease come back.
The authors found little difference between early salvage – with a five-year survival rate of 88 per cent – and immediate radiotherapy, with an 89 per cent rate.
The Daily Mail is campaigning for greater prostate cancer awareness, treatment and diagnosis, which, although improving, is lagging years behind other diseases.