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New study investigates treatment-associated regrets in prostate cancer

Harvard Health Publishing

January 6, 2022

Charlie Schmidt


New study investigates treatment-associated regrets in prostate cancer


Men who are newly diagnosed with prostate cancer have difficult choices to make about medical therapy, and the last thing any of them want is to regret their treatment decisions later. But unfortunately, treatment-related regrets are quite common, according to a new study.


After looking into the experiences of 2,072 men diagnosed with prostate cancer between 2011 and 2012, the investigators found that more than one in 10 were unhappy with their chosen treatment.


The men were all younger than 80, with an average age of 64. Nearly half of them had slow-growing cancers with a low risk of recurrence or spread after treatment. The rest were in intermediate- or higher-risk categories.


All the men were treated in one of three different ways: surgery to remove the prostate (a procedure called radical prostatectomy); radiation therapy; or active surveillance, which entails monitoring prostate tumors with routine PSA checks and imaging, and treating only when, or if, the cancer progresses. More than half the men chose surgery regardless of their cancer risk at the time of diagnosis. Most of the others chose radiation, and about 13% of the men — the majority of them in low- or intermediate-risk categories — chose active surveillance. Then, at periodic intervals afterwards, the men filled out questionnaires asking if they felt they might have been better off with a different approach, or if the treatment they had chosen was the wrong one.


What the results showed

Results showed that after five years, 279 of the men (13% of the entire group) had regrets about what they had chosen. The surgically-treated men were most likely to voice unhappiness with their decision; 183 of them (13%) felt they would have been better off with a different approach. By contrast, regrets were expressed by 76 (11%) of the radiation-treated men and 20 (7%) of men who chose active surveillance. Men in the low-to intermediate-risk categories were m