Overtreatment and Underutilization of Watchful Waiting in Men With Limited Life Expectancy: An Analysis of the Michigan Urological Surgery Improvement Collaborative Registry

Urology. 2020 Nov:145:190-196. doi: 10.1016/j.urology.2020.07.047. Epub 2020 Aug 7.


Objective: To determine rates of watchful waiting (WW) vs treatment in prostate cancer (PCa) and limited life expectancy (LE) and assess determinants of management.

Materials and methods: Patients diagnosed with PCa between 2012 and 2018 with <10 years LE were identified from the Michigan Urologic Surgery Improvement Collaborative registry. Multinomial logistic regression models were used to identify factors associated with management choice among NCCN low-risk PCa patients. Data from high-volume practices were analyzed to understand practice variation.

Results: Total 2393 patients were included. Overall, WW was performed in 8.1% compared to 23.3%, 25%, 11.2%, and 3.6% who underwent AS, radiation (XRT), prostatectomy (RP), and brachytherapy (BT), respectively. In men with NCCN low-risk disease (n = 358), WW was performed in 15.1%, compared to AS (69.3%), XRT (4.2%), RP (6.7%), and BT (2.5%). There was wide variation in management among practices in low-risk men; WW (6%-35%), AS (44%-81%), and definitive treatment (0%-30%). Older age was associated with less likelihood of undergoing AS vs WW (odds ratio [OR] 0.88, P < .001) or treatment vs WW (OR 0.83, P < .0001). Presence of ≥cT2 disease (OR 8.55, P = .014) and greater number of positive biopsy cores (OR 1.41, P = .014) was associated with greater likelihood of treatment vs WW and Charlson comorbidity score of 1 vs 0 (OR 0.23, P = .043) was associated with less likelihood of treatment vs WW.

Conclusion: Wide practice level variation exists in management for patients with low- and favorable-risk PCa and <10-year LE. Utilization of WW is poor, suggesting overtreatment in men who will experience little benefit.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Comorbidity
  • Humans
  • Life Expectancy*
  • Male
  • Michigan / epidemiology
  • Overtreatment
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Registries
  • Watchful Waiting / statistics & numerical data*