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VA prostate cancer program

Men who show signs that their disease has returned after prostate cancer treatment are still more likely to die of other causes, a new study in U.S. veterans shows.

Nevertheless, researchers say the study underscores the need to find a better way to identify the minority of men who will die of prostate cancer after the disease recurrence.

“We often don’t know what to tell these men in terms of their risk of dying of prostate cancer.” Dr. Timothy Daskivich of UCLA told Reuters Health.

Detecting prostate cancer is most often done with a blood test that measures concentrations of prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, a protein made in the prostate that becomes elevated in men with prostate cancer.

After treating prostate cancer with surgery or radiation, PSA levels are monitored. If PSA levels begin to increase, this can serve as an early indicator of disease recurrence. But the effect of a rising PSA after treatment, also known as “biochemical recurrence”, on men’s subsequent risk of dying from prostate cancer is not clear.

To investigate, Dr. Edward M. Uchio of the VA Connecticut Healthcare system in West Haven and Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven and his colleagues looked at 623 men who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer between 1991 and 1995 and were followed for up to 16 years after treatment. By the end of 2006, 387 of them (62 percent) had died; 48 of these deaths, or 12 percent, were due to prostate cancer, the researchers report in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Among the 225 men who had surgery to removed their prostate, 37 percent had biochemical recurrence (rising PSA) within 15 years of treatment. For these men, the risk of dying was 3 percent within 5 years of treatment, 10 percent within 10 years of treatment, and 21 percent at 15 years’ follow-up.

Among the 398 men treated with radiation, 48 percent had experienced recurrence at 15 years. The risk of dying for these men was 11 percent at 5 years, 20 percent at 10 years, and 42 percent at 15 years. The relatively low probability of dying from prostate cancer “may provide some reassurance, and perhaps improve the quality of life, among men facing this situation,“ Uchio and his team say.

They add: “The phrase ‘most men die with prostate cancer, not of it,’ applies to elderly veterans, even after failure of primary treatment.”

(Thisinformation is from the Retired (Military) Officers Association (ROA) bulletin.)

DAV vans

The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization is running a VAHC van from Durango on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call Mike Dunaway, 247-2198, and from the Farmington area on Mondays and Wednesdays, call Harriet Mulnix, (505) 793-1782.

Durango VA Clinic

The Durango VA Outpatient Clinic is located at 1970 E. 3rd Ave. Durango, CO 81301 (the old Mercy Medical Center). Phone number is 247-2214.

Further information

For information on these and other veterans’ benefits, please call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office located at the Senior Center in the Pagosa Springs Community Center on Hot Springs Blvd. The office number is 264-4013, the fax number is 264-4014, cell number is 946-6648, and e-mail is The office is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Bring your DD Form 214 (Discharge) for application for VA programs, and for filing in the VSO office.