A December 20th article by Associated Press medical writer Lauran Neergaard illustrated the difference between “watchful waiting” and “active surveillance” for men diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer. Most of the 240,000 cases of prostate cancer diagnosed annually in the United States are in the “low-risk” category. Yet 90% of these men seek immediate treatment and its accompanying risks. For many of these men, “active surveillance” under the care of a urologist may have been a wiser choice. “Active surveillance” is much more aggressive than “watchful waiting”. It involves getting regular scans, blood tests and biopsies to monitor the tumor closely enough such that curative treatments could be administered if needed before symptoms would be observed. Men are urged to seek out treatment centers where such “active surveillance” is practiced. A panel from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) stated that men whose PSA level is less than ten (10) and whose Gleason score is six (6) or less would be candidates for such surveillance. A collaboration between two large active surveillance programs at Johns Hopkins University and Cedars Sinai Medical Center with the Prostate Cancer Foundation has been instituted to educate men about “active surveillance.” The program is entitled the National Proactive Surveillance Network- at http://www.npsn.net. Shortly an interactive section will be added to the site to link men with doctors who offer “active surveillance” and to track how these men fare over time. This represents an individualized approach to treatment as opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach.
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