Understanding Active Surveillance or Watchful Waiting in Prostate Cancer

May 26, 2012 by  
Filed under Prostate Cancer Treatment

Do you know that prostate cancer can be treated by you ‘doing nothing’ about it? This is often called active surveillance or watchful waiting. By ‘doing nothing’ it implies you prefer not to go for treatments like radiation or surgery. There are so many things you ought to know about active surveillance and these are discussed below.

Active surveillance is a matter of choice

If you have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, you may decide to do active surveillance. This can be a good treatment choice if the cancer is low- risk or it is still in the early stage. However, making the decision of watchful waiting may not be yours alone to make. Your doctor would be highly involved in the decision making.

Active surveillance is the situation where you monitor the progress of the cancer that originated from your prostate cells to see if it could be growing or that it has begun to give you uncomfortable symptoms. During the time of this monitoring, Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test and Digital Rectal Examination (DRE) could still be carried out. In some patents, biopsies need to be done.

What could inform your decision of Active Surveillance?

Your decision as to do watchful waiting is determined by a lot of factors. These may include:

Your general health – are you strong enough undergo the intense treatments of prostate cancer such as radiation therapy, radical prostatectomy, and other rigorous procedures. Also, if you have other conditions like heart disease or diabetes, etc, these may influence your choice of watchful waiting.

Your life expectancy – If already you have some few years to live, you may choose to do active surveillance on that prostate cancer. The older you are, the more likelihood that you are going to do watchful waiting.

The stage of the cancer – Prostate cancer can be staged to discover if it is early or advanced. Knowing the Gleason score will determine the exact stage and how it has spread in body. If the stage is still early and low risk, then active surveillance can be applied.

The possible side effects of other treatments – You may choose to go for watchful waiting so as to avoid the side effects of prostate cancer treatments. Prostatectomy, radiation therapy, and hormonal therapy could lead to erectile dysfunction, incontinence, bowel problems, etc. The risks of having these side effects are likely to make you decide to actively survey or watchfully wait on the prostate cancer progress.

Importance of active surveillance

Prostate cancer does not grow as fast as other types of cancer. The early symptoms may not appear until after 10 years. Hence, the decision of watchful waiting can help you take time to monitor the progress of the tumor. You can avoid the risks and cost of treatments for the main time. Moreover, it is to be noted that some people may not really need treatment after they have been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Statistics have shown that only 3 out 100 prostate cancer victims die from it, so watchful waiting may not affect your chance of survival.

Conclusively, for more information on active surveillance or watchful waiting, you should have discussions with your doctor.

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