Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK, more than 40,000 new cases are being diagnosed every year.
Treatments for prostate cancer include surgical removal of the prostate gland, radiotherapy and hormone therapy. All of these radical treatment options carry significant side effects such as erection problems (impotence), urinary incontinence, bowel difficulties and inflammation of the back passage.
Active surveillance is a treatment option that has now become popular for prostate cancer. Men with low to intermediate risk prostate cancer are increasingly being managed by active surveillance.
Active surveillance is a way of monitoring prostate cancer that hasn’t spread outside the prostate (localised prostate cancer), rather than treating it straight away. You might hear it called active monitoring.
Men who decide to go on active surveillance have regular, usually three monthly tests to check on the cancer. No treatment is given unless these tests show your cancer may be growing, or if the patient decides he would like treatment, thereby avoiding or delaying the side effects of treatment. If there are signs the cancer may be growing, treatment aimed at curing the cancer will be offered.
It might seem strange not to have treatment, but localised prostate cancer often grows slowly - if at all - and may have a low risk of spreading. So it may never cause you any problems or affect how long a man lives. Because of this many men on active surveillance won’t need treatment in their lifetime.