If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with cancer, it might seem counterintuitive to pass on treatments like surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. However, if you’ve been diagnosed with low-risk cancer, a non-invasive form of treatment known as active surveillance could benefit you in several ways. To find out if this treatment plan is right for you, Regional Cancer Care Associates explores using active surveillance for prostate and other forms of cancer.
What is active surveillance?
Active surveillance simply involves monitoring the conditions of patients whose cancer has not spread; shows as a small, slow-growing tumor; and is not causing symptoms. During active surveillance, doctors perform regular testing, biopsies, and more to monitor the progression of your specific type of cancer. You will not receive treatments like surgery, chemotherapy, or hormone-assisted therapy unless they are deemed necessary to prevent your condition from worsening.
By waiting and watching instead of receiving curative therapy, you can potentially enjoy a more comfortable quality of life without the negative side effects of certain treatments. For example, traditional prostate cancer treatments pose the potential for urinary, bowel, and erectile dysfunction. Similarly, eye cancer treatment can cause cataracts, eyelash loss, and dry eye. Depending on the potential side effects of your cancer treatment, active surveillance might help you live a more enriched, satisfying life.
How can I decide if it’s right for me?
To determine whether active surveillance will benefit you, your doctor needs to be confident that your cancer is slow-growing and non-aggressive. For instance, if you have prostate cancer, one way to determine its aggressiveness is by calculating its Gleason Score, with values of six or lower indicating that your cancer will likely grow slowly. For those with other forms of cancer, your doctor can determine the cancer’s aggressiveness by analyzing the size of the tumor and whether it has spread elsewhere in the body.
Age is another important factor to consider when deciding on active surveillance. For example, the younger a patient is, the more time his/her cancer has to progress. However, younger patients might have more at stake than older patients, such as their reproductive abilities and activity levels, and may prefer an invasive form of treatment. Regardless of your age, be sure to weigh all the pros and cons of active surveillance with your doctor.
Finally, health status is essential in affecting whether active surveillance will benefit you. If you also have been diagnosed with another serious health condition, such as heart disease or diabetes, your doctor may feel that performing an invasive cancer treatment such as surgery would cause you more harm than good. As always, be sure to have regular, open communication with your doctor to determine whether active surveillance can benefit your cancer prognosis.
Making the Final Decision
By using these key deciding factors, you can start to gauge whether active surveillance would be beneficial to your cancer recovery. To make a fully informed decision, talk with your doctor about how this form of treatment would affect your unique patient experience. If you’re looking for compassionate cancer care and are interested in active surveillance, the oncologists at Regional Cancer Care Associates are standing by to help across Connecticut, Maryland, and New Jersey. For more information, contact us today.