Is it possible to ignore a cancer? Many men lose their lives “too soon”, dying in their 60s or even their 50s. Nonetheless, authorities do not recommend the PSA blood test for routine screening of this disease. How can this make sense? Partly this has to do with the inadequacy of that blood test and its failure to save lives. However, the key to “ignoring” prostate cancer is that sometimes it is not the deadly illness we have been lead to believe.
It is not for every patient but preliminary research indicates that 30 – 50% of patients can delay therapy, and that the chance of dying from prostate cancer because of delay appears to be small, although the exact risk awaits the results of ongoing trials. Especially in the older population, or in patients with other medical problems, waiting to treat can have real benefit. It requires the decision that one can live with the knowledge they harbor a cancer and to commit to an observation plan. However, for many patients active surveillance offers the chance to avoid the side effects of invasive cancer therapy and maintain an extra measure of dignity and independence.