The importance of surgeon's experience as it relates to prostate cancer outcome is underscored by the results of a study reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (volume 99, page 1171).
Researchers analyzed the outcomes of 7,765 radical prostatectomies performed by 72 surgeons between January 1987 and December 2003 at four major academic medical centers. "Biochemical" recurrence was defined as a postsurgery PSA level greater than 0.4 ng/mL followed by a subsequent higher PSA level. The analysis took into account patient and tumor characteristics, such as pre-operative PSA level and Gleason grade. The men's PSA levels were measured every three to four months in the first year after surgery, twice in the second year, and annually during the following years.
The researchers found that surgical outcomes improved along with the number of radical prostatectomies a surgeon had performed, leveling off only after about 250 surgeries. The five-year probability of experiencing a recurrence of prostate cancer was 18% for surgeons who had performed only 10 operations compared with 11% for surgeons who had performed at least 250 surgeries.
Bottom line on prostate cancer surgery: The results suggest that you can improve your odds of a successful outcome from radical prostatectomy by taking time to find a surgeon with extensive experience.