Does Active Surveillance Work for Prostate Cancer?


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Does active surveillance work? According to the results of a new study from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), active surveillance is an effective treatment choice for men who have low to intermediate risk prostate cancer. The study results were presented at the American Urological Association’s annual meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 20, 2012.

Active surveillance (also referred to as watchful waiting) is a treatment option typically reserved for men who have non-aggressive prostate cancer.

Men who choose active surveillance get regular examinations to monitor any disease progression, but they do not actively treat the disease.

The regular examinations include digital rectal exams (DRE) as well as prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing at intervals you and your doctor can identify as working best for you.

The current study was a retrospective review of data from 775 men who had participated in active surveillance between 1990 and 2011 for at least six months. To date, 652 men have chosen active treatment, and the main reason for their choice was prostate cancer progression identified on prostate biopsy (59%). The second most common reason was personal preference or other clinical characteristics (38%), while 3% had a PSA doubling time within 36 months.

Of the 122 men who chose radical prostatectomy as their treatment, four-year PSA recurrence-free survival was 83%. Overall survival was 97% and five-year disease-specific survival was 100%. The study’s authors concluded the rate of treatment seen in their study was similar to that reported in other studies of active surveillance and that “at intermediate follow-up, such a treatment approach seems safe.”

Read more in our Prostate Cancer Health Center.