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

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

Prostate Cancer Treatment Patterns: A Closer Look continued...

Fifty-four percent of the men diagnosed with prostate cancer with a PSA at 4 or lower had low-risk disease, they found. That was also defined as being at stage T2a or lower, with a Gleason score of 6 or lower. A Gleason score, Stein says, is based on "how the cancer looks under the microscope." Scores of 8-10 (10 highest possible) are high-grade tumors, according to the American Cancer Society.

More than 75% of these men with so-called low-risk disease got aggressive therapy, Stein found -- either radical prostatectomy, complete removal of the gland, or radiation therapy.

The decisions are difficult, Stein tells WebMD. "Guys with PSAs under 4 could have lethal cancers," he says.

''These results underscore the fact that PSA level, the current biomarker, is not a sufficient basis for treatment decisions," the researchers write. What's needed, Stein says, are other markers -- such as specific genetic signatures tied to higher-risk disease -- to better predict the risk of a lethal cancer.

Aggressive Prostate Cancer Treatments: Other Opinions

The new research adds statistics to what has long been known, says Stuart Holden, MD, medical director of the Prostate Cancer Foundation and head of the Louis Warschaw Prostate Cancer Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, who reviewed the study for WebMD.

"This article is saying that PSA when used alone as a screening tool will tend to uncover many cancers that are harmless and do not need to be treated," he says."However, it will also discover some that do need to be treated."

Aggressive treatment for low-risk cancers is due, he says, to the lack of knowledge experts still have about prostate cancers, Holden says. It's not always possible to distinguish between harmless and aggressive cancers.

Another expert agrees prostate cancer is often overtreated. "There's no question there is a problem of overtreatment of prostate cancer," says Matthew Cooperberg, MD, assistant professor of urology at the University of San Francisco, who has published on the topic of low-risk prostate cancers.

''I think the authors are slightly unfair in their estimation of our ability to risk-stratify the disease and target treatment appropriately," he tells WebMD, noting that doctors take into account other factors besides the PSA level when deciding on the best course of treatment, such as age and other medical tests.

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