Watchful Waiting Vs Active Surveillance
To understand your choices, he explained, its key to know the difference between the two options for men if they do not seek immediate treatmentwatchful waiting and active surveillance.
While both strategies entail not being treated immediately, they are very different. The goal ofwatchful waiting isnt to cure or even treat the disease. Its not a good option for men with low-riskcancer. Its generally for men who, because of advanced age or a medical condition, are likely to die from something else before prostate cancer becomes a mortal threat. If the disease causes symptoms such as pain, these are managed, but the goal isnt cure.
Men with low-risk cancer, on the other hand, are good candidates for active surveillance. The goal here is to cure the cancerif it needs treatment at all. In many cases, these cancers dont even progress, so they dont really need treatmentand may never need treatment. With active surveillance, Dr. Hu explained, treatment is deferred until the time that there is evidence that the disease is progressing.
Current guidelines recommend active surveillance for most men with low-risk prostate cancer.
What Happens When Prostate Cancer Is Left Untreated
Doru Paul, MD, is triple board-certified in medical oncology, hematology, and internal medicine. He is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and attending physician in the Department of Hematology and Oncology at the New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center.
While most men undergo some form of treatment for their prostate cancer, some men today choose to not be treated for their prostate cancer. Instead, they may choose to have their doctors monitor their cancer.
Known as active surveillance, it is common when the cancer is expected to grow slowly based on biopsy results, confined to the prostate, not causing any symptoms, and/or small. In active surveillance, doctors will initiate cancer treatment only if cancer starts growing.
Others men may choose to not undergo cancer treatment because of a short life expectancy or other serious medical problems. They may feel that the risks or side effects of cancer treatment outweigh their potential benefits.
This option is certainly OK and reasonable in the right circumstancesrequiring a careful and thoughtful discussion with your doctor and family.
Drugs That Stop Androgens From Working
For most prostate cancer cells to grow, androgens have to attach to a protein in the prostate cancer cell called an androgen receptor. Anti-androgens are drugs that also connect to these receptors, keeping the androgens from causing tumor growth. Anti-androgens are also sometimes called androgen receptor antagonists.
Drugs of this type include:
They are taken daily as pills.
In the United States, anti-androgens are not often used by themselves:
- An anti-androgen may be added to treatment if orchiectomy or an LHRH agonist or antagonist is no longer working by itself.
- An anti-androgen is also sometimes given for a few weeks when an LHRH agonist is first started to prevent a tumor flare.
- An anti-androgen can also be combined with orchiectomy or an LHRH agonist as first-line hormone therapy. This is called combined androgen blockade . There is still some debate as to whether CAB is more effective in this setting than using orchiectomy or an LHRH agonist alone. If there is a benefit, it appears to be small.
- In some men, if an anti-androgen is no longer working, simply stopping the anti-androgen can cause the cancer to stop growing for a short time. This is called the anti-androgen withdrawal effect, although they are not sure why it happens.
Enzalutamide , apalutamide and darolutamide are newer types of anti-androgens.
These drugs are taken as pills each day.
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Active Surveillance And Watchful Waiting
If prostate cancer is in an early stage, is growing slowly, and treating the cancer would cause more problems than the disease itself, a doctor may recommend active surveillance or watchful waiting.
Active surveillance. Prostate cancer treatments may seriously affect a person’s quality of life. These treatments can cause side effects, such as erectile dysfunction, which is when someone is unable to get and maintain an erection, and incontinence, which is when a person cannot control their urine flow or bowel function. In addition, many prostate cancers grow slowly and cause no symptoms or problems. For this reason, many people may consider delaying cancer treatment rather than starting treatment right away. This is called active surveillance. During active surveillance, the cancer is closely monitored for signs that it is worsening. If the cancer is found to be worsening, treatment will begin.
ASCO encourages the following testing schedule for active surveillance:
A PSA test every 3 to 6 months
A DRE at least once every year
Another prostate biopsy within 6 to 12 months, then a biopsy at least every 2 to 5 years
Treatment should begin if the results of the tests done during active surveillance show signs of the cancer becoming more aggressive or spreading, if the cancer causes pain, or if the cancer blocks the urinary tract.
Seven Types Of Standard Treatment Are Used:
Watchful waiting or active surveillance
Watchful waiting and active surveillance are treatments used for older men who do not have signs or symptoms or have other medical conditions and for men whose prostate cancer is found during a screening test.
Active surveillance is closely following a patient’s condition without giving any treatment unless there are changes in test results. It is used to find early signs that the condition is getting worse. In active surveillance, patients are given certain exams and tests, including digital rectal exam, PSA test, transrectal ultrasound, and transrectal needle biopsy, to check if the cancer is growing. When the cancer begins to grow, treatment is given to cure the cancer.
Other terms that are used to describe not giving treatment to cure prostate cancer right after diagnosis are observation, watch and wait, and expectant management.
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Are Prostate Problems Always A Sign Of Prostate Cancer
Not all growths in the prostate are cancerous, and not all prostate problems indicate cancer. Other conditions that cause similar prostate cancer symptoms include:
- Benign prostatic hyperplasia : At some point, almost every man will develop benign prostatic hyperplasia . This condition enlarges the prostate gland but doesnt increase cancer risk. The swollen gland squeezes the urethra and blocks the flow of semen and urine. Medications, and sometimes surgery, can help.
- Prostatitis: Men younger than 50 are more prone to prostatitis, inflammation and swelling of the prostate gland. Bacterial infections are often the cause. Treatments include antibiotics or other medications.
Diagnosed With Prostate Cancer Four Big Mistakes Men Are Making
Its not the news you wanted to hear from your doctorYou have prostate cancer.
Fortunately, as with 97% of men diagnosed with this cancer, it hasnt spread to other parts of your body.
Even better news: Your cancer is classified as low risk, which means your risk of dying from it over the next 15 years is less than 1%.
Now you have to decide what to do. Treatment such as surgery, hormones or radiation entails side effect risks such as erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence. These days, in a big change in medical practice, more and more men who are newly diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer have options that entail not seeking immediate treatment.
But heres the problem: Many men make the wrong choices, according to a recent study. Heres what you need to know to make the right ones.
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Transurethral Resection Of The Prostate
This operation is more often used to treat men with non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate called benign prostatic hyperplasia . But it is also sometimes used in men with advanced prostate cancer to help relieve symptoms, such as trouble urinating.
During this operation, the surgeon removes the inner part of the prostate gland that surrounds the urethra . The skin is not cut with this surgery. An instrument called a resectoscope is passed through the tip of the penis into the urethra to the level of the prostate. Once it is in place, either electricity is passed through a wire to heat it or a laser is used to cut or vaporize the tissue. Spinal anesthesia or general anesthesia is used.
The operation usually takes about an hour. After surgery, a catheter is inserted through the penis and into the bladder. It remains in place for about a day to help urine drain while the prostate heals. You can usually leave the hospital after 1 to 2 days and return to normal activities in 1 to 2 weeks.
You will probably have some blood in your urine after surgery.
Other possible side effects from TURP include infection and any risks that come with the type of anesthesia used.
Quality Of Life With Advanced Stage Prostate Cancer
Since Huggins and Hodges won a Nobel Prize in 1966 for their work describing the relationship between testosterone and prostate cancer, androgen deprivation has continued to be an important component in the treatment of advanced prostate cancer. It is associated, however, with significant cost in terms of morbidity as well as economics. Side effects of androgen deprivation therapy include hot flashes, osteoporosis, loss of libido or impotence, and psychological effects such as depression, memory difficulties, or emotional lability. Recently Harle and colleagues reported insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, metabolic syndrome, and metabolic complications being associated with castration and thus being responsible for increased cardiovascular mortality in this population.
Because of the palliative nature of androgen ablation, quality of life is an important component of evaluating competing therapies. Intermittent androgen deprivation is one approach to hormonal therapy that has been developed with the aim of minimizing the negative effects of therapy while maximizing clinical benefits and the patients quality of life. It can be used in any clinical situation where continuous androgen deprivation treatment could be applied.
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Expert Review And References
- American Cancer Society. Prostate Cancer. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society 2015: .
- American Society of Clinical Oncology. Prostate Cancer. 2014: .
- Garnick MB . Harvard Medical School 2015 Annual Report on Prostate Diseases. 2015.
- National Cancer Institute. Prostate Cancer Treatment . 2015: .
- National Cancer Institute. Prostate Cancer Treatment for Health Professionals . 2015: .
- National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Prostate Cancer . .
- Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. Princess Margaret Cancer Centre Clinical Practice Guidelines: Prostate Cancer. 2015: .
- Saad F, Chi KN, Finelli A, Hotte SJ, Izawa J, Kapoor A, et al. The 2015 CUA-CUOG Guidelines for the management of castration-resistant prostate cancer . Canadian Urological Association Journal. 2015: .
Surgery For Advanced Prostate Cancer
Surgery to remove the prostate is not suitable for advanced prostate cancer. An operation called a transurethral resection of the prostate can help relieve problems with passing urine . Another type of operation removes part of the testicles. This is called a subcapsular orchidectomy. It is done to reduce the amount of testosterone in the body. Surgery may also be used to help control other symptoms or to help stabilise a bone that is at risk of breaking.
There are other treatments available that can relieve and control any symptoms you may have.
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Delaying Treatment For Prostate Cancer
Not everyone with prostate cancer needs treatment straight away.
In some situations, doctors may ask you to think about delaying treatment. It means you can avoid treatment and its side effects until you need it. Sometimes treatment is never needed.
There are two ways of delaying treatment. They are called active surveillance and watchful waiting. Watchful waiting is also called watch and wait.
How Prostate Cancer Staging Is Done
Initial staging is based on the results of PSA blood tests, biopsies, and imaging tests. This is also called clinical staging.
PSA refers to a protein made by the prostate measured by a lab test.
- A higher level of PSA can indicate a more advanced cancer.
- The doctors will also look at how fast the PSA levels have been increasing from test to test. A faster increase could show a more aggressive tumor.
A prostate biopsy is done in your doctors office. The results can indicate:
- How much of the prostate is involved.
- The Gleason score. A number from 2 to 10 that shows how closely the cancer cells look like normal cells when viewed under a microscope. Scores 6 or less suggest the cancer is slow growing and not aggressive. Higher numbers indicate a faster growing cancer that is more likely to spread.
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Impact Of Age On Treatment
The rising number of men diagnosed with prostate cancer is a result of increasing life expectancy as well as the current practice of screening by prostate-specific antigen blood tests. Besides PSA and Gleason score, age is considered a key prognostic factor in treatment decision making. Although organ-confined disease can be cured by radical prostatectomy and full-dose local radiation therapy, treatment options for advanced- stage disease remain palliative. They include active surveillance, or watchful waiting, early versus delayed hormonal therapy to control disease progression, and continuous or intermittent androgen deprivation. Observational studies of older men with early stage disease have suggested conservative management as a viable option.,
Chodak and associates evaluated 828 men who were managed expectantly in a series of nonrandomized trials. Median follow-up was approximately 6.5 years. Patients with poorly differentiated cancers had a 10-fold increased risk of death from prostate cancer as compared with men showing highly differentiated prostate cancer. A 5-year disease-specific survival of only 34% was found in men with poorly differentiated prostate cancer. In contrast a 5-year disease-specific survival of 87% was described in men with well-or moderately differentiated cancers.
How Is Erectile Dysfunction Treated
Current treatment options for erectile dysfunction for men who have received treatment for prostate cancer include:
- Oral medications, such as tadalafil , vardenafil , avanfil , or sildenafil
- Injections of medicine into the penis before intercourse
- Use of a vacuum constriction device to draw blood into the penis to cause an erection
- Drugs taken as a suppository placed in the penis prior to intercourse
- Penile implants
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What Is The Most Effective Treatment For Prostate Cancer
The choice of treatment for prostate cancer depends on many factors such as the patients prostate cancer risk as calculated from prostate-specific antigen levels, Gleason score, and tumor staging. Patients can discuss the significance of these factors in the choice of treatment with their doctor.
The standard effective treatment choices for men with early-stage prostate cancer are as follows
- Active surveillance: Monitoring the progression/status of the low-risk or early-stage cancer with regular testing and not treating it right away.
- Prostatectomy: Surgical removal of the prostate.
- Radiation therapy: Use of high-energy waves to destroy cancer cells.
Radiation therapy is one of the most effective treatments for many men with early-stage prostate cancer. It is also the best prostate cancer therapy for older men or those with other co-existing diseases. It can be delivered to the patient in any of the two ways
- External beam radiation: Sending/focusing high-energy waves from an external machine into the tumor.
- Brachytherapy: Placing a radioactive dye in the tumor through an implant or hollow tubes.
For metastatic prostate cancer, androgen deprivation therapy is usually the choice of treatment. ADT is also the only option in patients with prostate cancer who are unfit or unwilling to undergo surgery or/and radiation therapy.
How Will I Know That My Hormone Therapy Is Working
Doctors cannot predict how long hormone therapy will be effective in suppressing the growth of any individual mans prostate cancer. Therefore, men who take hormone therapy for more than a few months are regularly tested to determine the level of PSA in their blood. An increase in PSA level may indicate that a mans cancer has started growing again. A PSA level that continues to increase while hormone therapy is successfully keeping androgen levels extremely low is an indicator that a mans prostate cancer has become resistant to the hormone therapy that is currently being used.
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Hormone Therapy For Prostate Cancer
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Hormone therapy is also called androgen suppression therapy. The goal is to reduce levels of male hormones, called androgens, in the body, or to stop them from fueling prostate cancer cells.
Androgens stimulate prostate cancer cells to grow. The main androgens in the body are testosterone and dihydrotestosterone . Most androgen is made by the testicles, but the adrenal glands as well as the prostate cancer itself, can also make a fair amount. Lowering androgen levels or stopping them from getting into prostate cancer cells often makes prostate cancers shrink or grow more slowly for a time. But hormone therapy alone does not cure prostate cancer.
How Soon Can We Detect This
One of the main advantages of surgery over radiotherapy for prostate cancer is that following prostate removal, the PSA should be very low , which we can of course detect with blood tests. If metastasis occurs, because the metastatic cells originated in the prostate and therefore make PSA, the PSA level in the blood starts to rise. Once it has reached a given threshold additional or salvage treatment will be discussed.
A PSA level of more than 0.2 ng/ml defines biochemical recurrence. At this stage the cancer is still much too small to be seen on scanning. If it can be seen on a scan it is termed clinical recurrence, which generally does not occur until the PSA level is more than 0.5 ng/ml. Symptoms, such as bone pain, dont usually occur until the PSA is more than 20 ng/ml.
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