Monitoring prostate cancer

What is active surveillance?

  • Early (localised) prostate cancer

    What is active surveillance?

    Active surveillance means your doctors will monitor you regularly and only give treatment to cure your cancer if it progresses.

Active surveillance means that your doctor monitors you regularly. You will have:

  • An MRI scan when you start active surveillance, if you have not had one before
  • A digital rectal examination every 6–12 months
  • Blood tests every 3–6 months to check your PSA levels
  • A prostate biopsy at 12 months or an MRI scan.

They will also ask if you have any new symptoms.

If any of the tests show that the cancer is starting to grow, your doctor will recommend surgery or radiotherapy to cure the cancer. If the cancer isn’t growing, it’s safe to continue with active surveillance.

Advantages of active surveillance

  • It avoids the complications and side effects of surgery, radiotherapy or hormonal therapy.
  • If the cancer progresses during active surveillance, treatment is usually given with the aim of curing the cancer.

Disadvantages of active surveillance

  • You may find it difficult to wait and see whether your cancer progresses before starting any treatment.
  • You may need treatment anyway if your cancer grows.
  • Some cancers that progress during active surveillance may not be curable but can be controlled with long-term hormonal therapy.