Watchful waiting for early (localised) prostate cancer
Watchful waiting, sometimes known as watch and wait, is a way of avoiding treatment for as long as possible.
It’s usually offered to older men, or those who aren’t fit enough for treatments such as surgery or radiotherapy, who have a slow-growing prostate cancer that’s unlikely to affect their natural life span. Some elderly men with early-stage prostate cancer will never need treatment because their cancer is very slow-growing and unlikely to cause symptoms.
You’ll be monitored, usually by your GP, to see if you have developed any new symptoms, such as difficulty passing urine, or bone pain. You’ll also have regular blood tests to monitor your PSA levels and may have digital rectal examinations.
If you develop symptoms or your PSA level rises, your GP will refer you back to the specialist at the hospital, who will usually recommend hormonal therapy. This can help to control the cancer. If there’s no sign that the cancer is progressing, it’s safe to continue with watchful waiting.
Advantages and disadvantages
Many men who choose watchful waiting will avoid the complications and side effects of surgery or radiotherapy.
Some men find it difficult to accept they have cancer but aren’t treating it. If the cancer does begin to progress, it’s usually treated with hormonal therapy, which is given to control the cancer but won’t cure it.
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