Aid & Information
Prostate cancer is often slow growing and may not cause any problems or symptoms in your lifetime, some men may never need treatment for their prostate cancer. Your doctor may recommend approaches known as watchful waiting, or active surveillance. During the watchful waiting period, the physician keeps the cancer under close watch. Watchful waiting will tell you and your doctor how quickly your prostate cancer is progressing, or if the disease is progressing at all. You will have checkups and tests, such as PSA tests, digital rectal exams, and prostate biopsies. Usually this approach includes a doctor visit with a PSA blood test and digital rectal exam about every 3 to 6 months. Transrectal ultrasound-guided prostate biopsies may be done every year as well.
Watchful waiting sometimes continues for years. In other cases, tests eventually show that the cancer is growing and needs to be treated. The main reason to choose other treatment is to not miss the chance of being cured. With watchful waiting, there is still a small chance that the cancer may grow quickly and spread. Of course, even with surgery or radiation, there is a small chance that the cancer will spread. But after the cancer spreads, the treatment to get rid of it may be more complicated and cause more side effects.
Today, though, more men are choosing treatment rather than life with cancer because of the availability of minimally invasive options, corresponding long-term data demonstrating effectiveness, and fewer side effects.
Watchful waiting is a reasonable option for some men with slow-growing cancers because it is not known whether treating the cancer with surgery or radiation will actually help them live longer. These treatments have definite risks and side effects that may outweigh the possible benefits for some men. Some men are not comfortable with this approach, and are willing to accept the possible side effects of active treatments in order to try to remove or destroy the cancer.
What may be an advantage for one person might not be for someone else. If you’re offered watchful waiting, speak to your doctor before deciding whether to go on it – they will be able to help you decide whether it’s the right option for you.