When Eddie Carrillo, a Los Angeles contractor, was found to have prostate cancer at the age of 52, his primary care doctor and his urologist both urged him to have his prostate removed. But after hearing about a “watchful waiting” program on talk radio, Mr. Carrillo decided to simply monitor his disease rather than treat it.
That was 15 years ago, and Mr. Carrillo, still hale at 67, is glad he did not succumb to pressure to undergo surgery.
“What scared me, I wasn’t ready to do the operation right away,” Mr. Carrillo said. “I have two uncles with prostate cancer, and I have quite a few friends who have had their prostates taken out. The discomfort level and what they went through afterward — I didn’t think that was the way I wanted to go.
This year, about 240,000 men will be given a diagnosis of prostate cancer. Although 81 percent of them will discover the disease at a very early stage, and although prostate cancer usually grows very slowly, most of these men will choose aggressive treatment, opting for removal of the prostate, or radiation treatments that often render them impotent or incontinent — or both.
But about 10 percent of men choose a different strategy: no treatment at all. The decision to forgo surgery or radiation is controversial, and is often met with resistance from a man’s own doctors and family members.