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Research results could change monitoring period for testicular cancer
Published Friday, March 18, 2016 4:20PM MDT
Last Updated Friday, March 18, 2016 6:24PM MDT
Testicular cancer is the most common form of the disease in young males and a new study out of the University of Calgary is showing a cure rate of almost 100 percent in patients who are disease-free two years after diagnosis and treatment.
About 1000 men are diagnosed with testicular cancer every year and if it is caught early, the survival rate is 99 per cent.
But in those cases where the disease has spread to other parts of the body the prognosis varies and scientists say the survival rates for men with advanced metastatic testicular cancer ranges from 50 to 90 percent.
Researchers at the U of C collected data from about 1000 metastatic testicular cancer patients over a 12 year period and found that there was a 98 percent cure rate for those men who were free of the disease two years after diagnosis and treatment.
“This is a paradigm shift for men with advanced testicular cancer,” said Dr. Daniel Heng, a clinical associate professor at the University of Calgary’s Department of Oncology. “For many cancers, the five year mark has been the gold standard. Only when you’ve passed the five year mark are you thought to be at a very low risk of relapse. Now with metastatic testicular cancer, after the two year mark you’re considered golden. This is much more reassuring for patients as opposed to waiting five years.”
The results of the study are changing medical guidelines on disease surveillance around the world and that could mean fewer CT scans for patients after treatment.
“What we were able to show is that those patients who survive and do well after two years, their chances of it coming back are one percent or less and so that means the follow-up for those individuals, we probably don’t have to follow them as intensely after two years and so that actually relieves a lot of anxiety for a patient,” said Heng. “And now we can tell them, after two years, if you’re good, you’re probably golden and you don’t need any more CT scans.”
Patients recovering from the disease typically have a CT scan every three months in the first year, every four to six months in the second and annually after that for five years following treatment.
Scientists say the new study now suggests that monitoring the patient through CT scans can be discontinued after two years of disease-free survival along with the associated blood tests and physical exams.
“Not only does this mean less radiation from CT scans for patients with testicular cancer, but we reduce their anxiety,” said Dr. Heng. “We often can’t get CT scan results for at least a week, so this can be very anxiety provoking as patients wait for their results.”
Jason Baker was diagnosed in 2008 and went through three rounds of chemotherapy before his cancer went into remission. He says the results of the study are encouraging.
“It’s about a five year follow-up, which of course the study now has decreased that amount of time, which is great news, I could have avoided three years of CT scans and the exposure to radiation, which would have been a fantastic alternative to what I went through so I don’t go in to see my oncologist anymore, I’m officially cancer free and I’ve passed the seven year mark now,” said Baker.
Doctors say the best defence is still a strong offence and men should conduct regular self-checks regardless of whether they’ve had a cancer diagnoses or not.
The study was funded by the Calgary charity, Oneball, and the findings will be published in this month's edition of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.