Q. My husband has been diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer (confined to the prostate gland), and his doctors recommend a “watch and wait” approach. I say get it out of there. What’s the smart move?
— Carrie Waver, San Diego
A. To answer this question really well, we’d need to know your husband’s age and how healthy he is overall. Still, this should help you two.
Treating early-stage prostate cancer isn’t like correcting a bad hairdo: You don’t automatically snip and cut to fix it. What’s called watch and wait (or active surveillance) is often smart, because early-stage prostate cancer is usually small and slow-growing. For men over 70 or who have high-risk medical problems, the cancer often won’t progress fast enough to shorten their life.
If your husband is younger than 70, it may still be smart to put off treatment. Surgery and radiation are no picnic; neither are their possible side effects, including sexual problems and leaking urine (up to 25 percent of guys do). This doesn’t mean your spouse will be sitting around staring at his prostate. His doctors will want to see him often, usually for:
If any signs of cancer activity develop, his options include surgery — frequently first choice for younger men, when the cancer likely hasn’t spread. Radiation is often a good choice for older guys who have additional health issues. Brachytherapy — inserting tiny radioactive “seeds” in the prostate — is for men of all ages with localized prostate cancer. And there are more, but this is a newspaper column.
Our bottom line: Get a second opinion. It changes treatment (and even the diagnosis) about a third of the time. If another doc confirms this approach, go with it. If not, get a third opinion. And keep your eye on your hubby with a bit of active surveillance yourself.
Hold prostate cancer at bay
The YOU Docs, Mehmet Oz, host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen of Cleveland Clinic, are authors of “YOU: Losing Weight.” To submit questions, go to www.RealAge.com.