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Goal of Watchful Waiting for Prostate Cancer

The goal of watchful waiting (also known as active surveillance) is to delay other treatment for prostate cancer until, or unless, it shows signs that it's harming you. It can be the first choice for treatment if your cancer isn't likely to pose a serious threat to your quality or length of life.

Making the Decision to Watch and Wait

Watchful waiting may be a good choice for you if you agree with either of these statements:

I have another serious health problem. If you have a potentially life-threatening illness, watchful waiting may be the best choice for you. Such illnesses may include another form of cancer, heart disease, lung disease, or Alzheimer's disease.

I'm older, and I have a low Gleason score. Autopsy studies have shown that many men who die of natural causes or illnesses other than prostate cancer also have prostate cancer. Yet, they may never have had any symptoms. If you have a low Gleason score, your cancer is likely to advance slowly. And if you're older, it's very likely that prostate cancer with a low Gleason score will never interfere with your life. However, if during your watchful waiting period your PSA level begins to rise rapidly or you start to have symptoms, your doctor may recommend treatment. If you're younger and in relatively good health, you should probably consider treatment even if your Gleason score is low. That's because the younger you are, the more time the cancer has to advance and cause problems.

Keep in mind that if you choose watchful waiting, you can always decide to be treated later. You may change your mind, or your condition may change. Be sure to talk about all your options with your healthcare team.