UGA prof helps evaluate prostate cancer outcomes

Men with low-risk prostate cancer may want to consider delaying treatment, according to a national panel of health experts that included a University of Georgia professor.

Officials with Maryland’s National Institutes of Health chose Phaedra Corso — who heads the Health Policy and Management Department in the University of Georgia’s College of Public Health — to participate on a three-day panel at the start of December because of her experience in evaluating risks and rewards in health care treatments.

Prostate cancer wasn’t something she knew a lot about before becoming a panel member, Corso said.

“I knew nothing before I got on this panel,” she said.

NIH leaders asked the 14-member panel to look at the outcomes for low-risk prostate cancer patients; experts found there wasn’t much evidence that treatments like radiation and surgery improved the lives of men with small, slowly growing tumors, she said.

Low-risk prostate cancer patients sometimes go through radiation therapy and surgery to flush the cancer out of their bodies, she said.

“Incontinence and impotence are almost guaranteed,” Corso said.

After three days of listening to scientific testimony and looking at the evidence, she heard that men with low-risk cancers often suffer more from their cancer treatments than from the cancer itself.

With patients’ testimony in mind, panel members were sequestered together and asked to come up with a set of recommendations.

“It’s quite an interesting process, very intensive,” Corso said. “We finished at 1:45 in the morning.”

Panel members crafted a document suggesting that men with low-risk prostate cancer should monitor the progress of their disease with a doctor — described as active surveillance — instead of immediately starting treatment.

Panel members also suggested that more research focus on men whose cancer likely will reach a point that requires treatment later in life. Good candidates for research would include men with low-risk prostate cancer who could need treatment later in life.

“The science is very poor on assessing on what those outcomes are for active surveillance,” she said.

The recommendations do not apply to men who have high-risk prostate cancer, or low-risk cancer that starts growing quickly, Corso said.

“Our review of the evidence does not say that you’ll never have treatment as a man with low-risk cancer,” she said. “What it does mean is that you don’t need (that treatment) when you’re 50.”

– Erin France [email protected]
Athens Banner Herald

Posted January 3, 2012.