In May of every year over 10,000 medical oncologists from around the world attend a 5-day meeting sponsored by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) where preliminary results of the latest cancer research are presented. Thousands of research projects are summarized and published in short 300-word abstracts. What follows is a long quote of almost the entire abstract published in 2012 by Dr. Simon Kim from the Mayo Clinic:
“While active surveillance is well recognized as an acceptable treatment strategy for low-risk prostate cancer, the extent to which radiation oncologists and urologists perceive active surveillance as effective and routinely recommend it to patients is unknown. Therefore, we sought to assess the attitudes and treatment recommendations for low-risk prostate cancer from a national survey of prostate cancer specialists.
Methods: A mail survey was sent to a population-based sample of 1,439 physicians in the U.S. from late 2011 and early 2012. Physicians were queried about their attitudes regarding active surveillance and treatment recommendations for patients diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer (PSA<10 ng/dl; Stage = T1c; Gleason 6 in one of twelve cores).
Results: Overall, 321 radiation oncologists and 322 urologists completed the survey for a 45% response rate. Most physicians reported that active surveillance is effective for low-risk prostate cancer (71%) and stated that they were comfortable routinely recommending active surveillance (67%). Urologists were more likely to agree that active surveillance is effective (77% vs. 67%; p=0.005) and were comfortable recommending active surveillance (74% vs. 61%; p=0.001) compared with radiation oncologists. Most physicians recommended radical prostatectomy (47%) or radiation therapy (32%), but fewer endorsed active surveillance (21%) for low-risk disease. After adjusting for physician covariates, radiation oncologists were more than eleven-times more likely to recommend radiation therapy, while urologists were 4.7-times more likely to recommend surgery and 2.1 times more likely to recommend active surveillance for low-risk prostate cancer.
Conclusions: Although active surveillance is widely viewed as effective by radiation oncologists and urologists, most urologists continue to recommend surgery, while most radiation oncologists recommend radiation therapy. Our results may explain in part the relatively low contemporary use of active surveillance in the U.S.”My Comment: This study clearly documents that urologists and radiation therapists, while acknowledging that active surveillance is acceptable, overwhelmingly recommend surgery and radiation. Not surprisingly, the urologists recommend surgery and the radiation therapists recommend radiation. The study findings are remarkable because they were not generated by a third party. This report depicts urologist and radiation therapist behavior though a self-description survey. Clearly, broader acceptance of active surveillance will be impeded until the day when urologists and radiation therapist physicians are willing to act on what they know to be true about active surveillance rather than simply giving it lip service.