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Research shows 'Watch and Wait' approach to cancer treatment could help patients avoid surgery

Posted at 5:42 PM, Mar 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-26 17:43:16-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — A cancer diagnosis is a life-changing event, and some doctors have their patients start treatment right away.

But new research on two types of cancer shows you may actually improve your chances of survival, and quality of life.

"Historically, colorectal cancer has always been treated with surgery," said Dr. Steven Nurkin with the Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

But with new types of more effective treatment, some patients might be able to avoid surgery altogether.

Patients like Kathy Wind. The Buffalo mother was diagnosed last year with stage three rectal cancer.

"From my understanding, textbook for rectal cancer was surgery right off the bat, Dr. Nurkin explained to my husband and I that that wasn't something that he wanted to do. He wanted to do treatment," she said. "I made it very clear to him that I would prefer not to have surgery."

And she didn't.

Wind's doctors at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center decided to take the 'Watch and Wait' approach with her - otherwise known as 'Active Surveillance.'

It involves monitoring the cancer using CT scans, MRI, ultrasound and biopsies, and intervening with treatment when necessary.

Preliminary data from a five-year study at Roswell Park shows that patients with certain types of cancers - kidney and colorectal - can be treated without surgery.

"The surgery and management of rectal cancer is associated with significant potential morbidity, complications, and really diminishing sometimes people's quality of life," said Dr. Nurkin

Wind had chemotherapy, then radiation. Dr. Nurkin then did an MRI, and her scans came back clear. The tumor had disappeared.

"It's still the shock value. I think you still wake up everyday and say to yourself I can't believe that this was my life a year ago," she said. "Most people, when I say that I have cancer, they can't believe it. I don't look like a poster board for cancer.

With the type of chemo doctors used with Wind, she never lost her hair, and only missed five months of work.

"Roswell saved my life," said Wind.

Doctor Nurkin says 'Watch and Wait' isn't the best approach for all patients, you need to speak with your physician and a specialist in this field.