PROSTATE cancer patients and doctors could soon get better guidance on treatment options thanks to a new ‘checklist’. Side effects of treatment can include erectile dysfunction or incontinence - but some men with symptoms don't know what the best option is.
Researchers have created a list of the most important potential outcomes of treatment for patients with prostate cancer.
Experts have found some experts only consider incontinence and others only look at erectile dysfunction as side effects of treatment.
Medical professionals are faced with a huge amount of information to decide on best treatment for patients.
A three-year study, funded by CRANES - Cancer Research Aberdeen and North East Scotland - reviewed hundreds of prostate cancer trials from all over the world.
Researchers found there have been dozens of different ways to measure the same outcomes making it hard to compare the findings of different studies looking at the same treatments.
The team has produced a list of 19 core outcomes which every prostate cancer trial should record.
One of the patient volunteers who contributed to the study was Andrew Mackie from Kemnay, Aberdeenshire.
He lost both his father and grandfather to prostate cancer and he too was diagnosed with the disease in 2013.
Andrew was given the option of ‘watch and wait’, or go ahead with surgery by his doctor. Given his family history, he opted to have the surgery.
“It was a relatively straightforward choice for me, as I had lost my father and grandfather to prostate cancer,” Andrew explains.
“But for many men, it’s a choice they would struggle to make because despite the support from medical staff and cancer charities, the information is not clear.
“There didn’t exist a clear indication of the number of people who might be affected by erectile dysfunction or urinary issues, etc. They couldn’t say, ‘if you go down this route, studies say 50 per cent of people have this or that outcome’.
“That’s where this study comes in.
“It will ensure that there are these core outcomes for future trials and analysis of interventions so people can make a more informed decision about what route to take.”
The checklist applies across all treatments aimed at curing prostate cancer, including surgery to remove the prostate, external radiation and ongoing monitoring of the disease.
“At the moment, we are effectively comparing apples and oranges when it comes to prostate cancer studies,” said Thomas Lam, a consultant urological surgeon at NHS Grampian and an honorary senior clinical lecturer at the University of Aberdeen.
“Some studies only look at incontinence, some look only at erectile dysfunction, others will look at different outcomes, and they often have different scales of success and failure.
“As a result it is incredibly difficult for patients and surgeons to make informed decisions about which treatments will yield the best results for them personally.”
Dr Steven MacLennan, Research Fellow at the University of Aberdeen said: “This is the first step in standardising the outcomes we use to demonstrate how effective treatments are in prostate cancer research. Ultimately helping men with prostate cancer and the doctors who treat them make a more informed choice about treatment options.
“There are research trials being done comparing treatments for prostate cancer all the time, but the outcomes they are recording are not all uniform and so it is difficult to compare like for like.
“If all trials record the same outcomes in the same way, it will be far easier for patients and surgeons to interpret the data and understand clearly what their options are with regards to treatment and what the likely side effects could be.”
It is hoped the next phase of research will involve looking at standardising the way these 19 core outcomes should be measured.