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Radiotherapy helps prostate cancer patients

Many prostate cancer patients only get hormone therapy to block testosterone, a hormone that helps prostate cancer grow.  A new study suggests that radiation therapy may also help the prostate cancer patients.

The study sponsored by the National Cancer Institute of Canada showed 74 percent of prostate cancer patients who received both hormones and radiation were still alive within seven years of treatment compared to 66 percent of the controls who received hormones only.

The study involved 1,200 men whose prostate cancers were severe enough to justify hormone treatment.  In the study, Dr. Padraig Warde, a radiation treatment expert from the University of Toronto's Princess Margaret Hospital assigned the subjects to get either hormones plus radiation therapy or hormones alone.

The researchers found that prostate cancer patients who received both treatments lived on average six more months longer than those receiving hormones alone.

The death rate is higher among patients with advanced prostate cancer, which has had spread to the area around the prostate at the time of diagnosis.  These patients need treatment.

"Radiation is an indispensable element in the treatment of patients with high-risk prostate cancer," said Dr. Jennifer Obel, a cancer doctor was quoted by the Associated Press as saying.

The study was released Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Prostate cancer is diagnosed in about 200,000 men in the United States each year and the disease kills about 35000 men annually in the country, according to the National Cancer Institute.