The difference between watchful waiting and active surveillance
Watchful waiting is often confused with active surveillance, which is another way of monitoring prostate cancer. The aim of both is to avoid having unnecessary treatment, but the reasons for having them are different. Check with your doctor which one you're being offered.
- If you do have treatment at any point, it will usually aim to control the cancer and manage any symptoms rather than cure it.
- It’s generally suitable for men with other health problems who may not benefit from treatment such as surgery or radiotherapy, or whose cancer may never cause problems during their lifetime.
- It usually involves fewer tests than active surveillance. These check-ups usually take place at the GP surgery rather than at the hospital.
- If you need treatment at any point, it will usually aim to cure the cancer.
- It is only suitable for men with slow-growing cancer that hasn't spread outside the prostate (localised cancer), and who would benefit from treatment such as surgery or radiotherapy if they needed it.
- It usually involves more regular hospital tests than watchful waiting, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and prostate biopsies.
Other names you might hear
Some people use names such as ‘active monitoring’, ‘deferred therapy’, ‘watch and wait’, and ‘wait and see’ to describe both watchful waiting and active surveillance. These can mean different things to different people, so ask your doctor or nurse to explain exactly what they mean.