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Could monitoring cancer be as effective as surgery?

While many strides have been made over the years in treating prostate cancer, it still remains that number two cause of death in men. Because of this, many who are diagnosed may automatically opt for surgery and chemotherapy, rather than just monitoring the size of a cancerous tumor and treating it when it becomes dangerous.

Indeed, many may prefer an aggressive approach, but a recent Minneapolis VA hospital study suggests that it is not always clear cut as to which patients should undergo surgery as opposed to other forms of cancer treatment. The study monitored 700 cancer patients across the country over a 20 year period. Essentially, 27 men passed away from their cancer after undergoing surgery, while 42 men who only had their cancers monitored passed away during the same period of time. 

Given the numerous variables in the study the difference was statistically negligible, meaning that those who did not opt for surgery were nearly as likely to live their lives with cancer compared to those who had surgery.

Some doctors also noted that undergoing surgery exposes the patient to a number of complications, including sexual dysfunction and incontinence. However, surgery was associated with lower death rates with those who had cancers that presented intermediate risks. Ironically, those with the highest cancer risks did not fare well with surgery, ostensibly because the cancer had spread so far that surgery would not have made a difference.

Regardless of what option you decide to take to address your cancer, your physician has a duty to use reasonable care in screening for cancers and advising you on your treatment options. If your doctor fails to use such care and it results in further illness or death, the doctor could be held liable