According to the most recent estimates, more than 241,000 men will have been diagnosed with prostate cancer in the United States this year (2012), while more than 28,000 will die from the disease. Overall, prostate cancer ranks only behind lung cancer as the deadliest among males in the US.
Until recently, the gold standard for helping to screen for prostate cancer was the PSA test, which looks for a biological marker – the prostate-specific antigen, or PSA – to determine one’s risk for developing the disease. But earlier this year, a federal panel called the PSA test “unnecessary” and told men to skip the test altogether. Making things worse, many men believe that once diagnosed with prostate cancer, the next step is to undergo invasive surgery to remove it – something that, it turns out, is extreme and unnecessary.
With respect to the last point, surgery and even radiation treatment are no longer the “automatic” choice. An approach called “watchful waiting” – in which a patient diagnosed with low-grade prostate cancer is monitored every three months or so by a physician – is now being practiced with increasing frequency.
This approach is part of an overall spectrum of care called active holistic surveillance. Simply, it espouses PSA testing – which, while admittedly imperfect, is the only screening tool currently available for prostate cancer – while entailing the adoption of a far healthier lifestyle: reducing stress levels during the day, altering diets to include more healthful choices, and taking up immunotherapies such as active hexose correlated compound (AHCC) to help boost the body’s natural defenses.
There are other steps to take as part of this approach to care:
Quite simply, active holistic surveillance empowers patients to take their health into their own hands. In a time when there are mixed messages surrounding prostate cancer, from PSA tests to surgeries to post-diagnostic care, this approach – a true collaboration between patient and doctor, not to mention the spouses and families of those patients – is more important than ever.