Anxiety Over Prostate Cancer Diagnosis Can Lead to Overtreatment

Distressed older man with short grey hair and black top being comforted by older woman (selective focus)

Prostate cancer is not easy for anyone to deal with, but the anxiety over the diagnosis may lead many men to getting more treatment than is necessary.

Men with low-risk prostate cancer may mistakenly choose more aggressive treatment, such as surgery, rather than keeping tabs on the cancer itself to see if it spreads, according to Heather Orom, PhD, associate professor of community health and health behavior at the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions. She is also the lead author of a new study on the topic recently published in the Journal of Urology.

Her study enrolled 1,531 men newly diagnosed with locally diagnosed prostate cancer. This means the cancer hadn’t spread beyond the prostate. The men’s emotional stress was measured on an 11-point scale known as a Distress Thermometer: 0 meant no distress, while a 10 signified extreme distress. The men were assessed twice, once soon after their diagnosis, and again after they’d made a treatment decision.

Although the majority of study participants had low- or intermediate-risk disease, they were more likely to select surgery as treatment, followed by radiation and active surveillance.

“There’s an interest in driving the decision-making experience to prevent overtreatment and ensure that men have full information about all the side effects so they can make a choice that’s preference and value driven,” Orom said in a statement. The side effects associated with surgery and radiation include erectile dysfunction and incontinence.

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