Clark Howard’s cancer choice was to watch, wait

Clark Howard, best known as WHIO talk radio’s penny-pinching consumer-guru, has lived calmly with prostate cancer for more than four years.

He is one of the men who has chosen, with medical advice, to do nothing but watch and wait after getting a cancer diagnosis in early 2009.

His primary doctor urged him strongly to act immediately after the diagnosis, Howard remembered.

“The doctor said, ‘If you don’t do this, I am not sure I can save your life,’ ” he said.

But Howard, as always, had been reading up after getting the initial phone call. And he has a cousin, a California doctor and founder of a prostate cancer foundation, who looked over the test results and told Howard to do nothing. Howard has a form of the disease that is in virtual stasis. And rather than risk surgery and and a raft of potential side effects, such as incontinence, he chose to wait.

“I may be one of those men who dies with prostate cancer, not from it,” Howard said.

“The cancer is showing no growth at all. And I am in active surveillance. So that is why I get tested every 90 days,” he said.

The tests include a biopsy and are about as comfortable as getting shot with a nail gun, Howard said, but necessary.

“According to my cousin, I am taking on no additional risk by waiting. If I were to fall out of the habit of having checkups, then I am playing Russian roulette.”

Howard, who now serves on the board of his cousin’s foundation, said recent research is showing there are multiple types of prostate cancers, and researchers are progressing toward figuring out which types need immediate treatment and which call for a wait-and-see approach.

He encourages men to get the now-controversial prostate-specific antigen test, but to also consider all the facts before going under the knife.

“What happens in America, they immediately want to cut and irradiate or freeze it,” he said, referring to various treatments. “It is a rare choice I made, but one I hope men who will be conscientious and who show a very low-risk cancer will consider, doing watchful waiting rather than getting cut.”

“My cancer is very small and localized. But if I have a biopsy showing the cancer is progressing, I am not on a suicide mission. I’ll get treatment right away.”

Listen to Clark Howard weeknights from 6 to 9 p.m. on AM1290/95.7FM News Talk WHIO, which like this newspaper, is owned by Cox Media Group.

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