Physician Characteristics Can Affect Prostate Cancer Treatment

Aug 11, 2014, 9:00 AM

Management of low-risk prostate cancer varies widely among urologists and radiation oncologists, with characteristics of the physicians who provide treatment playing a significant role in decisions about care, according to a study published online by JAMA Internal Medicine.

Researchers found that urologists who did not graduate from medical school recently, and who care for patients with higher-risk prostate cancer, are more likely to pursue up-front treatment for patients with low-risk prostate cancer than other urologists, who choose to observe and monitor the disease. In many cases, low-risk prostate cancer does not cause symptoms or affect survival if left untreated.

The prevailing approach in the United States, the study says, for men with low-risk prostate cancer is treatment with prostatectomy or radiotherapy, which can cause complications such as urinary dysfunction, rectal bleeding, and impotence. 

The study focused on patients 66 and older—who, previous research suggests, have similar survival rates and fewer complications when they choose observation over treatment.

The study concludes that public reporting of physicians’ cancer management profiles would help patients make more informed choices about treatment options and care providers.

Read the study, Physician Variation in Management of Low-Risk Prostate Cancer

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.