Almost 200,000 men in the United States are expected to learn they have prostate cancer in 2021. Many will have a type of the disease that’s not immediately life-threatening. These are the patients that may be candidates for active surveillance.
A high percentage of the active surveillance patients won’t require additional treatment that could cause sexual and urinary side effects. However, the patients will still require ongoing follow-up so if their disease progresses, a potentially curative intervention would be possible. This is the reason that a carefully designed active surveillance protocol is so important.
With impressive medical advances such as biomarker identification, genomic testing and improved imaging, identifying which men make the best candidates for active surveillance has become much clearer in recent years.
What is less clear is how men feel about active surveillance and their ideas on preferences for what it should involve. Research can provide that insight and lead to the development of patient-centered active surveillance protocols.
Improving care and understanding patient experiences
Researchers hope to get input from 50 to 100 prostate cancer patients who are currently being followed with active surveillance. Using a combination of interviews and questionnaires, the researchers’ goal is to learn more about men’s perceptions of different aspects of active surveillance, and to use what they learn to encourage greater participation by the men in those protocols.
Researchers are simply trying to see how being on active surveillance affects patients’ quality of life and determine whether there are things that could make their experience better.
This type of surveillance for prostate cancer includes ongoing PSA tests and digital rectal exams. Periodic biopsies and transrectal ultrasounds are necessary to determine if prostate cancer is progressing or may pose a greater risk than initially thought, necessitating further treatment.
Biopsy not only carries a small risk of infection, it can be uncomfortable, both physically and mentally as well. And for some men, the thought of living with cancer in their body may be mentally uncomfortable. Understanding how all of this affects patients is important to this study.
A focus on quality of life
To qualify for the study, the male participants must be diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer. They must also have chosen not to have treatment with prostatectomy or radiotherapy within the first year months of their diagnosis.
Researchers will ask those who complete an extensive questionnaire to participate in a qualitative interview to get more direct feedback on their experience.
Putting patients first
A lot of time and effort goes into bringing patients the latest advances in diagnosing and treating cancer, but there is more to providing good care. This study helps put the patients’ thoughts and feelings into the equation.