Clinical Topics & News

Prostate Cancer in Male Seniors Part 2: Treatment

Treatment decisions for patients with prostate cancer should be based on a patient’s health status, including life expectancy, functional performance, and comorbidities.

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This article (part 2 of 2) focuses on the treatment of prostate cancer in seniors. Part 1 provided an overview of prostate cancer epidemiology, pathology, and screening in senior patients.

There have been no specific practice guidelines for managing prostate cancer in older adults, and the current management of older patients with prostate cancer is often suboptimal. Recently, the International Society of Geriatric Oncology assembled a multidisciplinary prostate cancer working group, which has begun offering guidelines on evidence-based treatments of prostate cancer in the geriatric population.

Patient Evaluation

The practice guidelines of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recommend using life expectancy in determining treatment. 1 Prostate cancer is considered to be an indolent disease, and active therapy may be more harmful than beneficial to older patients whose life expectancy is limited because of treatment-related sequelae. Therefore, an accurate estimation of life expectancy is important in devising treatment strategies for older patients.

Age should not be the only factor in determining the life expectancy of patients, because life expectancy varies widely based on the patient’s health status, including preexisting comorbidities. Chronologic life expectancy can be found in the Social Security Administration’s life tables. Individual life expectancy is then projected by adding 50% to or deducting 50% from the chronologic life expectancy for men in the highest and lowest quartile of health, respectively. The life expectancy from the life tables can be applied with no addition or subtraction for men in the middle 2 quartiles of health status (Figure 1). 2

Geriatric Assessment

Despite the increasing incidence of prostate cancer in older adults, no particular guidelines for its management exist. Compared with younger patients, older
patients with prostate cancer need to weigh the benefits of treatment vs the risks to avoid any potential adverse treatment-related quality of life (QOL) decreases. Clearly, for some patients there are no significant benefits from treatment (eg, improved survival).

The Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment has been created to properly assess aging in correlation to individual and patient-centered biologic and clinical metrics.
Following extensive literature reviews, the International Society of Geriatric Oncology (SIOG) Prostate Cancer Working Group recognized that the most important prognostic factors in evaluating health status in elderly patients with prostate cancer include comorbidities, functional dependence, and nutrition status. 3 An important prognosticator of survival in prostate cancer is preexisting comorbidities. The Cumulative Illness Rating Scale-Geriatrics (CIRS-G) is considered the best metric currently available in assessing a patient’s death risk unrelated to cancer.

Another important factor influencing survival of older patients with prostate cancer is the patient’s level of independent activity. Independent functioning is evaluated
using (1) activities of daily living (ADL); and (2) the instrumental activities of daily living (IADL). 4-6

Health Status Subgroups

The SIOG recommendation for prostate cancer treatment in older patients is based on a complete assessment of existing comorbidities of patients using the CIRS-G,
IADL, and ADL scales as well as the nutritional status of each patient. 3,7-9 Based on these prognostic tools, the SIOG classifies the health status of elderly patients with prostate cancer into 4 prognostic health status categories: healthy, vulnerable, frail, and terminal. 10,11


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