Does active surveillance for men with localized prostate cancer carry psychological morbidity?


Katriina L. Burnet, Psychological Medicine, Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, Downs Road, Sutton, Surrey, SM2 5PT, UK. e-mail:



To investigate, in a cross-sectional study, the prevalence of anxiety and depression in patients with localised prostate cancer managed by active surveillance, compared with those receiving immediate treatment, as active surveillance is a relatively new approach to managing this disease, designed to avoid ‘unnecessary’ treatment, but it is unclear whether the approach contributes to psychological distress, given that men are living with untreated cancer.


A consecutive series of 764 patients with prostate cancer were approached in outpatient clinics. Of these, 329 men with localized disease (cT1/2, N0/NX, M0/MX) meeting the study entry criteria, completed the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS); 100 were on active surveillance, 81 were currently receiving radical treatment (radiotherapy + neoadjuvant hormone therapy) and 148 had previously received radical radiotherapy.


Overall, 16% (51/329) of patients met the HADS criteria for anxiety and 6% (20/329) for depression. Analyses indicated that higher anxiety scores were significantly associated with younger age (P < 0.01) and a longer interval since diagnosis (P < 0.01), but not with management by active surveillance (P = 0.38). Higher depression scores were significantly associated with a longer interval since diagnosis (P < 0.05), but not with management by active surveillance (P = 0.83).


Active surveillance for managing localized prostate cancer was not associated with greater psychological distress than more immediate treatment for prostate cancer.