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Active surveillance for prostate cancer

banner prostate cancer

What is active surveillance?

Active surveillance is a treatment approach in which patients are monitored closely for changes in the progression of their cancer and are tested at regular intervals. This approach is reserved for patients with slow-growing, localized cancers who are not experiencing symptoms related to their cancer.

During active surveillance, patients are not treated with therapies such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery unless their cancer appears to be growing or getting worse. In some cases, active surveillance may be the entire course of a patient's treatment plan, as patients and their doctor weigh the risks and benefits of aggressive cancer therapies.

What is active surveillance?

Video: What Is Active Surveillance?

For some men, active surveillance (also known as "watchful waiting") may be a treatment option for prostate cancer. Dr. Bans explains what it is and for whom it may be a treatment option.

Active surveillance for prostate cancer

More men are being diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer since prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing began in the late 1980s. Prostate cancer often grows slowly, making active surveillance a treatment option for men. Nine in 10 men diagnosed with prostate cancer in the United States have localized disease. Localized prostate cancer has not spread outside the prostate and generally does not cause any symptoms.

Older men are more likely to be candidates for active surveillance because treating them with surgery or radiation has not been shown to help them live longer. The decision to monitor prostate cancer instead of treating is made between a patient and his doctor.

In general, active surveillance could be an option for patients whose prostate cancer is:

  • Not causing any symptoms
  • Expected to grow slowly
  • Small and contained within the prostate

Patients under active surveillance at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) would have a PSA test every three months and a biopsy every 15 months. Other treatment options would be considered if a patient's PSA levels rapidly increases, his doctor finds changes in the patient's digital rectum exam (DRE) or the patient develops new symptoms.

At CTCA, our doctors consider all information, especially your input, when recommending active surveillance or any treatment plan. If you and your doctor decide active surveillance is right for you, a care team at CTCA will be established for you. If your condition changes, your oncologist and care team will be ready to begin treatment. You also will receive support from clinicians who provide integrative oncology services, such as nutrition therapy and naturopathic medicine, personalized for your individual needs.

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