When a first treatment for localised prostate cancer isn't enough

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Around 15,000 men are treated with surgery or radiotherapy for localised prostate cancer every year in the UK, and for the majority that treatment is successful. But, 10-15 per cent of men treated for low-intermediate risk localised prostate cancer will experience recurrence; that first treatment alone won't be enough. For early diagnosis to be effective in savings men’s lives, we need to get a lot better at working out each man’s risk of recurrence so all men get the right level of treatment to cure their localised cancer first time around.

Recurrent prostate cancer is when the cancer comes back after a first treatment.  However, in reality this means that the cancer never really went away in the first place. This could be either because the cancer had already escaped the prostate before treatment, but was undetectable on scans, or because some particularly resilient cancer cells survived a first treatment.

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Martin's story

Martin was diagnosed with localised prostate cancer in 2008. He had surgery. But within five months it was clear that he needed further treatment. After radiotherapy and two years of hormone therapy, Martin’s low PSA level indicated that the treatment had been successful. Martin, like other men continued to have regular PSA tests.

“Every PSA test meant another spike of anxiety. If anything happened so that I couldn’t get the results of my latest blood test on the day. I’d expected them. I’d be incredibly anxious. I just had to know.”

Eight years later Martin’s worst fears were realised.

“I felt like I finally knew what I was up against.”

Men should feel safe that their curable cancer has really been cured

It’s essential that for Martin, and other men like him, we get better at understanding who is at risk of their cancer coming back after treatment. This is exactly what one of our researchers, Professor Ananya Choudhury, at The Christie Hospital in Manchester, is trying to do. Professor Choudhury’s research focuses on preventing recurrence after radiotherapy. She is using a combination of genetic studies and analysis of historical data to work our when men are most at risk of recurrence, and most importantly what the most appropriate treatment would be.

With your help, we and our researchers can improve treatments for men like Martin, who are at high risk. Please, donate today to help stop prostate cancer being a killer.


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