Monitoring prostate cancer

What is watchful waiting?

You’ll be monitored, usually by your GP, to see if you have any new symptoms, such as difficulty passing urine, or bone pain. You’ll also have regular blood tests to monitor your PSA levels and you may have digital rectal examinations.

Unlike active surveillance you won’t need a scan or prostate biopsy unless your cancer starts to grow.

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

  • It avoids the complications and side effects of surgery or radiotherapy.

Disadvantages

  • You may find it difficult to accept that your cancer is not being treated.
  • Some men will need treatment anyway if their cancer progresses.
  • If treatment is recommended after a period of watchful waiting it is usually given with the aim of controlling the cancer rather than curing it. However, the cancer can often be controlled for several years before additional treatment is needed.