Prostate Cancer: What is Active Surveillance?

Prostate Cancer: What is Active Surveillance?

Active surveillance or watchful waiting as it is sometimes referred to, is a technique whereby a doctor will monitor a patient closely for any significant changes or progression in their prostate cancer. A patient will also be tested periodically to check for any signs that the cancer itself is developing. During this period of active surveillance no treatment of any kind will be administered to the patient. This includes any kind of medication, radiation treatment, chemotherapy or surgery that is used in treating prostate cancer. Active surveillance is a preferable approach to treatment when the prostate cancer is small, slow growing and confined to the prostate gland.

Reason(s) For Active Surveillance:

Observation of the prostate cancer is utilized to prevent any potential side effects men may experience as a result of treatment. In recent years active surveillance has also become the best alternative for patients who have a low risk prostate cancer progression. Generally speaking since prostate cancer can develop slowly, most men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer rarely show any symptoms of the disease. Typically the best candidates for active surveillance are those whose prostate cancer is small and have a low Gleason score of six or less.

What To Expect:

Your prostate cancer will be monitored closely for any indications of progression and you will have regular visits with your doctor to where one or more test will be done to evaluate your condition. These tests include:

  • Digital Rectal Exam (DRE): Your doctor will examine your prostate gland by carefully inserting a lubricated, gloved finger into your rectum. By feeling the surface of the prostate he can assess to what extent, if any, the cancer may have grown.
  • PSA Test: Is a blood test that is given to measure the level of prostate specific antigen in the blood. An elevated level could be an indication of prostate cancer growth.
  • Prostate biopsy: Cell samples are collected from within the prostate for further observation to determine if the cancer has grown. Your doctor may recommend this procedure on more than one occasion to re-evaluate cancer growth based on test results.

The decision to opt for active surveillance is one that should be made with careful consideration and with the aid of your doctor. With regular observation and testing your doctor will be able to determine when and if medical intervention will be required to adequately treat your prostate cancer.