Wednesday, March 2, 2016
PROSTATE CANCER & WATCHFUL WAITING
Prostate cancer unlike most other cancers is usually a slow growth cancer. Most men over the age of seventy with prostate cancer will probably die of something else. In my case because my PSA had doubled from 4.5 to 9.1 in a year watchful waiting wasn’t an option
Because I am a Vietnam Veteran the Veterans Administration assumes I was exposed to Agent Orange. Agent Orange was used in Nam as a defoliant and exposure to it causes a wide range of nasty diseases, prostate cancer being one of them. I will discuss this more in another article.
They are several terms for watchful waiting. It may be called expectant management, observation, and/or active surveillance. So what exactly does watchful waiting mean? Well what it doesn’t mean is to ignore the warning signs of a high PSA. What it does mean is working with your doctor to set up a protocol that includes regular monitoring of your PSA.
Some doctors may prefer to more closely monitor your prostate. While some may describe a less intensive approach. Using a variety of methods such as PSA blood test, digital rectal exams, biopsies and ultrasounds it’s possible to carefully monitor your cancer and take action if there is a change in your test results.
I should point out here that like most men my prostate and the idea of being constantly examined didn’t appeal to me. After all we’re talking about a most intimate part of the male anatomy. This being the case it’s critical to find a doctor who you feel comfortable with and who is willing to answer your questions and concerns and discuss all the options.
With active surveillance or watchful waiting only men whose cancer is growing will be treated. For men with slow growing or less serious cancers this means avoiding the many side effects of aggressive procedures such as surgery. Of course if you go the route of watchful waiting there is the danger that the cancer will spread. If this happens then your treatment options maybe limited and the long term effects significant. We’re talking erectile dysfunction (ED) and leakage.
Older men especially those with other serious health problems such as diabetes and or heart related illnesses watchful is a viable alternative. But for younger men who are in good health and who have twenty or thirty years to live a more aggressive treatment plan is probably the best choice.