At the close of the 1980s the medical community began to have a rather bleak perspective on the benefits of radical prostatectomy. Many male patients were reluctant to go "under the knife." In 1989 the results of a preliminary study indicated that men with prostate cancer could derive as many benefits from pursuing the approach known as "watchful waiting," as they could by using surgery to treat prostate cancer.
A more lengthy study, however, followed that preliminary study, and it produced some very different results. The data from that second study, a study undertaken over a period of ten years, became widely-distributed in May of 2005. During that month the new study results appeared in an issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. This more recent data provided a reason for patients to have a brighter perspective on radical prostatectomy.
According to the 2005 study results, a man who has used surgery to treat prostate cancer would be 44% less likely to die of prostate cancer. In addition, a man who has had surgery for prostate cancer should be considered 26% less likely to die of any cause. Perhaps one of the most important findings of the 2005 study related to those men who had already undergone a radical prostatectomy. The study showed that after surgery men had become 67% less likely to experience a reappearance of tumor growths.
Still the Swedish scientists who conducted the study that led to the above results did not advocate radical prostatectomy for all prostate cancer patients. Their study showed that for men over the age of 65, men who have been newly-diagnosed with prostate cancer, the risk of dying from prostate cancer was actually less than the risk of dying from other causes. In other words, after the age of 65 the approach known as "watchful waiting" does in fact provide greater benefits. The reduced benefits of radical prostatectomy after age 65 derive from the fact that prostate tumors normally grow very slowly.
As medicine began to revise its perspective on radical prostatectomy, some surgeons got busy planning ways to decrease the discomforts associated with that surgery. In 2005 many men who needed a radical prostatectomy, men who thus had a transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP), suffered through a long hospital stay. A year later the same type of patient could adopt a much more optimistic outlook.
By 2006 the advances in laser surgery had allowed many TURP patients to receive treatment on an outpatient basis. This innovation in surgery meant that the use of surgery to treat prostate cancer no longer required an older male patient to endure a lengthy and unpleasant hospital confinement.
The tools for performing a radical prostatectomy have changed greatly, but the benefits remain no less significant. Surgery gives to the patient with prostate cancer an added insurance that he will be able to enjoy his family for a generous amount of time. Surgery provides a patient with prostate cancer with many added years of life.