September 8, 2005

Guide aims to help men understand prostate cancer

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Men with prostate cancer are living
three times longer than they were 20 years ago because of early
detection and better treatment, but they have little
information on how to cope with it, a report said on Thursday.

Despite good detection and treatment options, about 30,000
people will die of prostate cancer in the United States this
year, according to the report by the nonprofit Prostate Cancer

The five-year survival rate for prostate cancer diagnosed
at any stage is 98 percent, the report said. This compared to
just over 59 percent in the early 1980s and 64 percent in the
late 1980s.

About 84 percent of men diagnosed with prostate cancer are
alive at 10 years and 56 percent at 15 years.

Since the cancer is often slow-growing and can be detected
early, men have the option of living with it for years or even
decades. That prompted the foundation to release the first
comprehensive guide to prostate cancer for men, their families
and doctors.

"We need this because 230,000 men are diagnosed with
prostate cancer every year," said Leslie Michelson, chief
executive officer of the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

"There is an explosion of information."

Women with breast cancer have the option of seeing a team
of experts -- an oncologist or cancer expert, a surgeon, and a
radiologist -- to discuss treatment and other issues.

And there are clear treatment guidelines for most cancers
-- often surgery, followed by chemotherapy in some cases,
radiation in others.

But men with prostate cancer often consult directly with
their urologist, who may or may not have expertise in treating
prostate cancer.

Diagnosis is not always easy because the blood test used
looks for a compound called prostate-specific antigen that is
usually, but not always, elevated when a man has cancer.

Once diagnosed, men have many choices for treatment, which
often boil down to personal preferences. Side effects like
impotence and incontinence are especially unpleasant.

"It is the most common cancer in America and the treatment
choices are some of the most difficult," Michelson said.

Men with prostate cancer can choose from several types of
surgery, radiation or "watchful waiting."

On top of that, patients can be overwhelmed with
information, some of it outdated and some simply wrong.

"Everyone has an opinion and today the Internet allows
everyone to express that opinion and it becomes very difficult
for an individual," said Michael Milken, a
financier-turned-philanthropist who founded the group.

"This provides something that is readable for the layperson
and has been vetted by some of the top scientists. It helps you
separate the misinformation," added Milken, himself a prostate
cancer survivor.

The guide advises patients to take several actions:

-- Surround yourself with a team of experts

-- Monitor your PSA levels regularly

-- Focus on the facts when choosing your initial therapy

-- Remember that side effects can be kept to a minimum.