A photograph of an older man sitting in a grassy field with two children on his lap, all smiling widely.

Being Proactive About Your Health While on Active Surveillance for Prostate Cancer

  • Men diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer are sometimes faced with a difficult patient-based decision: Do they treat their cancer immediately, or consider the strategy of postponing treatment, a technique called “active surveillance with curative intent?”

    With active surveillance, the possible side effects of treating prostate cancer, like incontinence and impotence, can be delayed or sometimes avoided altogether.  Although not every patient chooses this course of action, it can be a viable treatment option for men with prostate cancer associated with slow progression and relative low risk.

    While forgoing the side effects of treatment is beneficial, the choice of active surveillance may possibly create other health-related concerns for men who take this treatment path, as well as their partners. For example, men who choose active surveillance may wonder what other health-related behaviors and/or lifestyle choices they should modify or add to their treatment regimen that may boost their immune system. Others may wonder what they can do to manage concerns about their prostate cancer diagnosis or assuage concerns about treatment decisions that may arise from time to time. Nearly everyone is interested in ways to improve overall quality of life as they “stay the course.”

    Research Opportunity for Men with Prostate Cancer on Active Surveillance

    Fox Chase researchers are conducting a study to test a health promotion and wellness program intended to improve the quality of life of individuals diagnosed with prostate cancer and their partners. 

    Learn more about the study and how to join.

    Michelle Rodoletz, PhD, clinical psychologist at Fox Chase, shares some ideas about how to be “proactive” about your health when under active surveillance for prostate cancer. These behavioral health strategies can make the road to wellness a little easier for you and your caregivers.

    Being Proactive When on Active Surveillance


    Exercising several times a week has been shown to improve physical, as well as emotional, health. One study has found that regular vigorous activity can slow the progression of prostate cancer in men 65 years or older. The idea is to at least move regularly to the extent that you can and is appropriate for your health history. Always make sure you talk with your doctor first before starting any new exercise routine.

    Utilize your Support System

    Emotional, social, and practical support are important elements of any life. When adjusting to a cancer diagnosis, they’re essential.  Make time for family and friends, stay connected. Watch out for tendencies to withhold your needs for fear of burdening others. Sometimes, caregivers feel powerless when they don’t have a concrete way to help you and may actually be “unburdened” when you allow them to play a role in your journey.

    Eat Healthy

    In addition to weight-related goals, maintaining a healthy diet will help to boost your energy and your immune system’s ability to fight illness. Think of your food as fuel and your body the machine that’s running on it. This is an area where you literally have control of the input, take it.

    Schedule Self-care

    Engage in activities you find enjoyable or that rejuvenate you – such as cooking, reading or listening to music. While this may seem obvious, we don’t often actively make time for self-care, but rather expect it to just happen after our “to do” list is completed. Schedule some time for self-care every day, if possible. Go ahead and actually note it on your calendar or put in your day planner so it stays on your radar and helps you to ‘plan it in’ as a priority instead of trying to ‘squeeze it in’ as an afterthought.

    Keep a Journal

    Journaling or writing about the cancer experience can provide a private and fulfilling way to express your thoughts and feelings. This narrative technique is powerful. Evidence has shown that expressive writing, whether it’s daily or occasional, can help individuals clarify their thoughts as well as reassess and reprioritize their needs. In addition, having a creative outlet to privately explore inner emotions can be of assistance in learning how to ultimately communicate with others about what may be difficult and novel topics.

    Get Just the Right Amount of Information

    The Internet is an amazing tool. It’s invaluable in gathering and sorting out complex and often novel, health-related information.  But you must be aware that it can be a slippery slope and one can easily find themselves lost in a sea of information, not all reliable and reputable. If you find that you become easily swept away and/or overly activated by Internet ‘sessions,’ delegate out the job of gathering information to a trusted caregiver. Ask them to search for the information you want online and have them print it out for you to read and have.  And as mentioned, they’ll likely be thrilled to help!

    Learn more about our prostate cancer treatment options.