Human Tissue Sample Blog

Wait or Treat Prostate Cancer: The Fork in the Road

Posted by Quinton Stevens on Feb 21, 2017 5:33:00 AM




Prostate cancer is one of the single most common manifestations of cancer in the world today. Approximately 1 in 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer over the course of their lifetime. If given time and poor circumstance, it can be a fatal disease that can damage tissue all across the body, leading many to act quickly to have it treated and removed. As a result of the large system in place for handling prostate cancer cases, the idea that quick action is the best action has been put forward. However, recent studies conducted by Harvard Medical School seem to indicate that this may not be the case. Now there is an air of uncertainty surrounding prostate cancer that can not be so easily dismissed. The question at its core is this: Treat as quickly as possible, or wait it out?

Why treat quickly?

Logic dictates that if something is on fire in your house, you should do everything you can to immediately put it out before the flames spread and destroy everything you own. In many ways the same holds true for prostate cancer; the 5-year survival rates for those who catch prostate cancer in its early stages are 99% to 100%. The obvious pro to this course of action is not dying. Treating quickly can help to minimize cost in both time and money, as treating a more developed cancer can be far more consuming in both regards.

Why wait to treat?

On average, someone diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer has about a year that they can hold off on making any judgment calls where their survival rate will not be affected. This time frame is an important period when every option should be considered, including the option to simply watch the tumor and not dedicate to any surgical course of action. The reason for waiting on treatment is straightforward- approximately 16%-56% of all early stage prostate tumors won’t progress to metastasize, meaning treatment is unnecessary. Getting certain forms of treatment too quickly can be riddled with new issues all on its own as well, such as the risks of impotence or incontinence, that many would prefer to avoid. Lastly, survival rates for nearly all forms of treatment at the 5, 10, and 15- year benchmarks are the same, including watching the tumor for any signs of growth.

Why the dilemma?

The reason there is a debate at all is a result of a number of surveys that give some odd data. Ultimately, recent information indicates that survival rate will be unaffected one way or the other based on any course of action you take with treatment of early stage prostate tumors. While removing the tumor or treating it in a more active manor may have its appeal, early stage prostate tumours can oftentimes go the entire span of a man’s life without ever metastasizing. Yet, prostate cancer is still the second-leading cause of death from cancer in men. Late-stage prostate cancer should absolutely be treated and can rapidly become life threatening. The quandary of treatment lies in the early stage, because it does not always progress to the later stages and, therefore, does not always warrant treatment. Ultimately, each situation is unique and requires close analysis of the facts at hand. There is no one size fits all approach to treating prostate cancer. Nonetheless, it is very important to look at all options, as going overkill or rushing treatment could lead to unnecessary and painful side effects.


Garnic, Marc B., M.D. "Early-stage Prostate Cancer: Treat or Wait? - Harvard Prostate Knowledge." Harvard Prostate Knowledge RSS. Harvard Prostate Knowledge, 2009. Web. 15 July 2016.

"Prostate Cancer Treatment." Prostate Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)–Health Professional Version. National Cancer Institute, 5 July 2016. Web. 15 July 2016.

"Prostate Cancer Risk Factors: Age, Race, Diet, and Other Risk Factors." WebMD. WebMD, 2016. Web. 15 July 2016.

"What Is Metastatic Prostate Cancer?" WebMD. WebMD, 20 Dec. 2015. Web. 15 July 2016.

Topics: Cancer