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Why Watchful Waiting Is a Valid Approach for Prostate Cancer

In the US, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men, with nearly 200,000 new cases estimated this year alone. It is also the second leading cause of death in men, killing about 1 in 41 who have been diagnosed with cancer. But, a prostate cancer diagnosis does not mean a death sentence. In fact, a localized case of prostate cancer (where the cancer has not moved to other tissue) has a very high survival rate. And one method of dealing with a localized case of the cancer actually includes not immediately treating it.

Prostate cancer is just one of the many things Dr. Mark Kelly has been helping patients with in the Santa Monica, California, area for years.

What is watchful waiting?

This method of treatment focuses on observing for changes in how the cancer behaves in patients. It is a noninvasive way of managing slow-moving prostate cancer that requires fewer checkups and reduces chances of side effects from more aggressive methods of treatment. With it, the cancer is not treated directly unless other symptoms arise.

What are the advantages?

The biggest advantage to watchful waiting is avoiding the surgery or radiation therapy that is associated with more aggressive versions of the cancer. Not all cancers move at the same rate, and not all grow to become a danger to other tissue. This is also a good method to consider for early stages of the cancer if the cancer is not growing rapidly.

Am I a good candidate for this treatment?

This treatment isn’t for all prostate cancer patients. This works best for patients who:

Have low-risk cancers 

Cancers with a low PSA (prostate specific antigen) level are less likely to be dangerous. PSA is made in the prostate glands, and high levels of it can indicate other noncancerous conditions as well. 

Have slow-growing cancers

The speed and aggressiveness by which prostate cancer grows is measured by what’s known as the Gleason Score. This is a way of predicting the way the cancer behaves and often dictates treatment. A low score indicates a slow growing-cancer that doesn’t require immediate treatment. Small cancers are also usually slow-growing.

Have other severe illnesses

Watchful waiting can also be used for patients who are older and dealing with other severe conditions that may keep them from benefiting from other more invasive treatments. If the cancer becomes more aggressive and spreads, surgery of radiation therapy may be used to prevent it from making other problems worse.

Prostate cancer can be treated if detected early and treated regularly. Make an appointment with Dr. Kelly if you think you may be dealing with prostate cancer.

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