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Active Surveillance for Prostate Cancer

Active Surveillance for Prostate Cancer

A shockingly low number of men actually get on-site inspections following a diagnosis—here’s why you should.

In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan used an old Russian proverb, “Trust but verify,” when negotiating nuclear disarmament with Mikhail Gorbachev. The resulting INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) Treaty established an extensive verification process, which resulted in eliminating 2,692 missiles by 1991 and was followed by 10 years of active surveillance through on-site inspections.

Active surveillance of prostate cancer can produce equally beneficial results. But a shockingly low number of guys who are prescribed a “wait-and-see approach” actually get on-site inspections when they should.

A study from the University of North Carolina found only 15 percent of the 346 men who were tracked after their diagnosis with early-stage prostate cancer made follow-up appointments that adhered to recommended monitoring guidelines. Those guidelines include getting a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test every six months, a digital rectal exam annually, and repeat biopsies every 18 months following diagnosis.

If you’ve been diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer, those follow-up appointments allow your doctor to discover if (and when) the cancer starts to progress. Then you’ll know that active surveillance should end and active—and very effective—treatment should begin.

It may make you anxious to get those check-ups, but there’ll be a lot more anxiety if your cancer is left unchecked. Our suggestion: Make those first two PSA-test appointments immediately upon diagnosis and get the DRE when you have the second one. And put all future surveillance into your smart phone calendar with a reminder to make appointments or to keep them.

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