Men who've been diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer are faced with a difficult choice: do you undergo radical surgery immediately, or do you wait until the symptoms worsen, a strategy known as watchful waiting?
Doctors often fail to point out the downsides of immediate surgery and the affect this can have on quality of life. For example, penile erection is much more difficult to achieve, and urinary leakages are more commonplace.
Researchers have found that men who have surgery are twice as likely to suffer penile dysfunction and urinary leaks as those who watch and wait. The one advantage for those who had the surgery was that they were less likely to suffer urinary obstruction.
Overall, in the study carried out by the Swedish research team, it took four years for the differences between the groups to level out, suggesting watchful waiting may be the better course in the immediate future (N Engl J Med, 2002; 347: 790-6).