If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, you’re about to make some of the biggest decisions of your life.
You’ll get an earful about how important it is to jump on it right away, and that usually means one of four choices: radiation, chemo, hormone treatments, or even surgery.
But there’s a fifth option that most guys never hear about — and that’s none of the above.
And another study is proving that skipping aggressive treatment for months (or even years) could spare you a whole lot of misery — and maybe even save your life.
You’ll hear all about “targeted” radiation or their new favorite — robotic surgery.
They’ll practically promise they can pull out your prostate tumor over lunch and have you back on the golf course by 2.
Of course, there’s plenty they won’t tell you — like how the radiation treatments have been proven to cause aggressive colorectal cancer down the road. Or how the surgery could wreck your sex life, or even leave you in adult diapers.
It’s always easy when they’re talking about your prostate and not theirs, right?
Fortunately, if you’re not anxious to rush into one of these barbaric treatments (and who could blame you?), researchers have just proven that waiting may be the best choice you can make.
They just wrapped up a study of more than 900 men with low- and intermediate-risk prostate cancers at VA hospitals across the country. Now lots of these guys were veterans who are used to taking action — and you can bet that asking them to hold off on treatment wasn’t easy.
But the men who opted for “active surveillance” — where their tumors were monitored and there was no treatment until it was really necessary — ended up saving themselves a lot of heartache.
After about two and a half years:
- Not a single patient in the active surveillance group died.
- More than three-fourths of the men didn’t see their tumors get worse at all — and of the guys who did, a third of them still didn’t need treatment.
- Researchers found that most men in the study were going to be able to delay treating their prostate cancer for at least five years. Some were never going to need treatment.
Now, believe me, I get it. I could throw around every statistic under the sun, or remind you how slowly most prostate tumors develop — but putting off those radiation sessions or that surgery is still going to make you nervous.
What if you’re one of those unlucky guys whose prostate cancer spreads?
Well, that’s why it’s important to understand that active surveillance isn’t the same thing as doing nothing. You still get regular checkups and prostate exams to make sure your cancer isn’t getting any worse.
And if you ask me, visiting your doc a few times a year sounds a lot better than going under the knife or getting strapped to a chemo drip.
Of course, most guys who get diagnosed with prostate cancer are never given active surveillance as an option. And there’s one good reason for that — there isn’t a lot of money in it.
In fact, just last year I told you how a study proved that most docs don’t make prostate cancer treatment recommendations based on your age or even how serious your cancer is. They just recommend whatever it is they specialize in.
That’s why it’s so important that when you or a loved one is diagnosed with prostate cancer, you take the time to get a second or even third opinion.
And don’t be shy about asking your doc what he thinks about active surveillance — or whether he ever recommends it at all.
Because a little legwork could keep you from getting an aggressive treatment you don’t really need — or that may come with a lot more risks than the mainstream ever lets on.
“A ‘real-world’ study of prostate cancer surveillance” Nick Mulcahy, January 22, 2016, Medscape, medscape.com