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Does Delaying Radiation After Prostatectomy Reduce Side Effects?

Conventional wisdom in the medical community has long held that waiting to begin radiation therapy following a prostatectomy can prevent some of the potential adverse side effects of this cancer-killing treatment. Studies out of the University of Virginia School of Medicine, however, indicate that just might not be the case.

The studies focused on answering the question once and for all if adjuvant or salvage radiation therapy was the best approach to take following prostatectomy. Adjuvant therapy involves delivering radiation as soon after surgery as possible to ensure that cancer cells have been killed. Salvage therapy is generally provided months or more after prostate removal should a follow-up PSA test indicate it is needed.

Urologists have long counseled that salvage therapy can lessen the likelihood of more unpleasant side effects. Radiation oncologists, on the other hand, have urged the use of adjuvant therapy to reduce the risks of metastasis.

The University of Virginia’s studies were designed to lend more factual substance to the arguments on both sides of the aisle. The research has indeed shed light on the topic, showing that adjuvant radiation therapy may be the wiser approach.

In its review of 16,000 patient outcomes, University of Virginia researchers discovered that there is a noticeable increase in gastrointestinal side effects. Even so, delaying therapy doesn’t deliver a protective benefit. And, as it turns out there may be an increased risk of GI complications when a salvage approach is taken. The bottom line of the studies is that side effects may present regardless, but the more aggressive and early approach can deliver benefits that protect against metastasis.

Men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer are advised to work closely with their physicians to determine the best possible course of action. Treatment protocols may vary based on a patient’s specific case.

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