Learn about why doctors may recommend active surveillance for prostate cancer and what to expect.
During active surveillance for prostate cancer, your prostate cancer is closely monitored for any changes. Active surveillance for prostate cancer is sometimes called expectant management.
No cancer treatment is provided during active surveillance for prostate cancer. This means medications, radiation and surgery aren't used. Periodic tests are done to check for signs the cancer is growing.
You might consider active surveillance for prostate cancer if your cancer is small, expected to grow very slowly, confined to one area of your prostate, and isn't causing signs or symptoms.
If you have other health problems that limit your life expectancy, active surveillance for prostate cancer may also be a reasonable approach.
Active surveillance for prostate cancer is used to avoid treatment side effects when the risk of the prostate cancer progressing is very low.
Because prostate cancer grows very slowly, some very small cancers may never cause signs and symptoms. Many who choose active surveillance live out their normal life spans before the cancer ever grows large enough to require treatment.
Active surveillance for prostate cancer may be appropriate for you if:
Risks of active surveillance for prostate cancer include:
During active surveillance, you'll have regular visits with your health care team to monitor the cancer, usually every few months.
At these visits, tests and procedures might include:
Ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). If other tests raise concerns, your may need a transrectal ultrasound or MRI to further evaluate your prostate.
During an ultrasound, a small probe, about the size and shape of a cigar, is inserted into your rectum. The probe uses sound waves to create an image of your prostate gland. During an MRI, you lie inside a machine that uses radio waves to create cross-sectional images of your prostate.
Many who choose active surveillance for prostate cancer never undergo prostate cancer treatment. The cancer may never grow and may never cause signs and symptoms.
But prostate cancer treatment might be considered if:
Treatment options for prostate cancer depend on your particular situation, but may include surgery, medications and radiation.