While the furor over PSA testing plays out in the media, my sympathies lie with men newly diagnosed with prostate cancer . At the end of the day, the patient has to decide what to do.
Should the patient undergo treatment and suffer the consequences, even though his cancer may be the kind that never causes trouble?
Should he watch and wait, and risk letting an aggressive but curable cancer grow, possibly losing the only opportunity to cure it?
This dilemma cuts to the core of modern medicine. Every time you go to your doctors, the best they can do is offer advice, tests and/or treatment based on information derived from groups of past patients with similar problems. The more they know about you, the better they can tailor their care, using the best information on patients like you.
Understanding this challenge highlights the need for Healthy Survivors to communicate well in ways that strengthen the clinician-patient bond.
As for the newly diagnosed man with prostate cancer, talking with his physicians will help him weigh the risks and benefits and make the best decision for him. From then on, whatever the choice, this man has to find healthy ways of handling the uncertainty.
I am currently working on a 4-part series on managing patients' reactions to uncertainty. As soon as they are published later this fall, I'll share them with you on this blog.