How to Tell if Your Prostate Cancer Needs Treatment Now

Just about 240,000 men each year learn they have prostate cancer. But what they don’t learn is whether or not they need immediate treatment.

Prostate cancer is a challenging disease. It usually shows no symptoms until it is at an advanced stage where it’s difficult to treat effectively. About 60% of all prostate cancer is detected in men in their mid-sixties and beyond when treatment may not be appropriate.  But that means that 40% is found in men younger than 65. What do they do?

Two challenging questions arise: 1) how do you know you have prostate early when it still treatable, and 2) if you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, is yours the kind that needs immediate treatment or can you use ‘active surveillance,’ which used to be called ‘watchful waiting.’

What Kind of Prostate Cancer Do You have?

One of medicine’s major challenges is determining if a prostate cancer is slow growing and will never need treatment or if it is aggressive. The fact that there are multiple kinds of prostate cancer complicates the situation. [Types of prostate cancer.]

A Recent New York Times article by Gina Lolata highlights the trend of men away from immediate treatment of their cancer to active surveillance, watching to see if it becomes agressive. The decision on which course of action to follow depends on the stage of your cancer and it’s type – indolent or aggressive.

The arrival of the PSA blood test in the 1980’s resulted in a dramatic reduction in prostate cancer deaths from 40,000 per year to less than 29,000 per year. Statisticians are struggling to prove actual cause and effective between the use of the PSA test and the drop in prostate cancer death, but the fact remains that the PSA blood test is allowing prostate cancers to be found earlier, when they are most treatable.

Should You Have a PSA Blood Test?

I personally believe that men should begin taking an annual PSA blood test at age 35 to establish a baseline. This allows men to monitor if their PSA value is increasing from one year to the next. Men should personally monitor their annual PSA results and track any change from the previous year. A rising trend could indicate prostate cancer [note that the rise could be from a non-cancer cause] and should be discussed with a doctor or health care provider.

How Should You Track Your Annual PSA Value?

You can jot it down in your medical records, keep an Excel spreadsheet, or create a record on your refrigerator door. They key points are to take the test and personally track that PSA number.

We know that keeping this kind of data is easy to forget so we created a simple Internet tool called ProstateTracker that lets you create a free, anonymous account that tracks each of your PSA tests and plots them on a graph so you can see if the number is rising.  If it is, it’s important to talk with your doctor immediately. ProstateTracker sends you an email reminder when it’s time for your next test. Simple.

You can create your ProstateTracker account by clicking the following link: Activate my ProstateTracker account.

Our Thoughts About Active Surveillance

Active surveillance certainly is a treatment option. Whether or not it is appropriate depends on your type and stage of prostate cancer and your personal level of risk acceptance. [There also are risks associated with treatment].

More Men with Early Prostate Cancer Are Choosing to Avoid Treatment

by Gina Kolata, May 24, 2016

“Seemingly overnight, treatment of men with early-stage prostate cancer has undergone a sea change. Five years ago, nearly all opted for surgery or radiation; now, nearly half are choosing no treatment at all.”

Read the full article here: