Prostate cancer can grow very slowly. In some men, it can grow so slowly they may never need treatment. But doctors still want to keep an eye on the cancer so they can take action if it gets worse. This approach is known as active surveillance or watchful waiting.
Your doctor may have suggested these options instead of other treatment for a few reasons:
Other health conditions you have, such as heart disease, diabetes, or long-lasting high blood pressure
Risks and side effects...
Radical prostatectomy, external-beam radiation therapy (EBRT), and interstitial implantation of radioisotopes are each employed in the treatment of stage II prostate cancer with apparently similar therapeutic effects. Radical prostatectomy and radiation therapy yield apparently similar survival rates with as many as 10 years of follow-up. For well-selected patients, radical prostatectomy associated with a 15-year survival comparable to an age-matched population without prostate cancer. Unfortunately, randomized comparative trials of these treatment methods with prolonged follow-up are lacking.
Patients with a small, palpable cancer (T2a, N0, and M0) fare better than patients in whom the disease involves both sides of the gland (T2c, N0, and M0). Patients proven free of node metastases by pelvic lymphadenectomy fare better than patients in whom this staging procedure is not performed; however, this is the result of selection of patients who have a more favorable prognosis.
Side effects of the various forms of therapy—including impotence, incontinence, and bowel injury—should be considered in determining the type of treatment to employ. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Sexuality and Reproductive Issues for more information on impotence.)
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) changes as markers of tumor progression
Often, changes in PSA are thought to be markers of tumor progression. Even though a tumor marker or characteristic may be consistently associated with a high risk of prostate cancer progression or death, it may be a very poor predictor of very limited utility in making therapeutic decisions.