Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

Aggressive Treatment for Prostate Cancer Is the Norm

Study Finds Majority of Men Diagnosed With Low-Risk Disease Get Radiation or Radical Surgery
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 26, 2010 -- More than 75% of men diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer undergo aggressive treatment -- either complete removal of the prostate or radiation therapy, according to a new study.

That's true, the researchers found, even in men with a low level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) of under 4 nanograms per milliliter, one of the factors taken into account when treatment decisions are made.

''If we knew for sure everyone with a PSA under 4 would not die of prostate cancer, case closed," says researcher Mark N. Stein, MD, a medical oncologist at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey and assistant professor of medicine at the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick.

But that's far from true, Stein says. And that makes the balance between overtreatment and undertreatment difficult, he says. The report is appears in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

"The tremendous improvement in survival has been attributed to early detection and treatment," Stein and his colleagues write. "However, there have been concerns about the potential overdiagnosis and overtreatment of localized prostate cancer."

In the study, they looked at data from nearly 124,000 men with newly diagnosed prostate cancer from 2004 to 2006 to determine which men received aggressive treatment.

More than 192,000 new cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed in 2009, according to the American Cancer Society, and more than 27,000 men died of it.

Prostate Cancer Treatment Patterns: A Closer Look

Stein and his team looked at data from the SEER database, which drew from 16 tumor registries and covers about 26% of the U.S. population.

In all, 14% of the men had a PSA of 4 nanograms per milliliter or lower.

The PSA test measures prostate-specific antigen, a protein produced by the prostate. Typically, the higher the PSA level, the higher the risk of prostate cancer, although some men can have an elevated PSA without cancer and some men can have cancer without an elevated PSA. Most healthy men without prostate cancer will have a PSA of less than 4 nanograms per milliliter, so that level is a general cutoff as to whether to proceed to biopsy, although some say the threshold should be lower and adjusted for age.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

man with doctor
Symptoms, risks, treatments
man coughing
Men shouldn’t ignore
prostate cancer cells
What does this diagnosis mean?
doctor and male patient
Is it worth it?
cancer fighting foods
15 Cancer Symptoms Men Ignore
Prostate Enlarged
Picture Of The Prostate
Prostate Cancer Quiz
screening tests for men
Prostate Cancer Symptoms
Vitamin D