Imagine being diagnosed with cancer and having your doctor recommend you not undergo treatment and, instead, "Watch and wait."
What? Do nothing but watch and worry?
A recent editorial by Christopher J. Logothetis, MD, the chairman of the Department of Genitourinary Medical Oncology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center explains why we need to rethink our approach to certain cancers. Simply put, treatment in some cases is worse than the disease.
The conundrum arises when improved technology increases our ability to detect cancer, but we don't yet have the technology to predict which newly diagnosed cancers are aggressive and need treatment, and which ones are indolent, posing less risk than therapies used to treat them.
In the context of prostate cancer, Dr. Logothetis explains, "The reality is that too many men are treated unnecessarily for prostate cancer, and too many die of the disease." He concludes his editorial, "Rather than debating the limitations of current knowledge, we must focus on developing more accurate methods of assigning risk of death from prostate cancer."
As a Healthy Survivor, take comfort in knowing that, although uneven, this progress in diagnostics is still good for the overall process of improving medical care in the long run.
In the meantime, weigh the risks and benefits of each option, recognize that you have to make a treatment decision based on incomplete data, make your best judgment call with your physicians about the best choice for you, and then don't look back.