How is prostate cancer
monitored on active surveillance?
Active surveillance allows your doctor to keep a close eye on the prostate cancer without putting you through aggressive treatment. Through regular testing, doctors look out for cancer growth and symptoms.
Depending on your doctor or care team's guidance, here are some tests to expect:
PSA tests — your doctor will regularly monitor your blood prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels
digital rectal exam (DRE)
magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
prostate biopsy (taking samples of prostate tissue)
You may also have other blood and urine tests, but your doctor or care team will speak with you about your plan.
Being a good candidate
for active surveillance
Doctors look at a number of factors to determine if active surveillance is suitable for you, including your:
cancer type - active surveillance can be suitable for men with low-risk, localized prostate cancer
age and current health - being younger with a good level of health and fitness may help the case for going on active surveillance
After carefully reviewing all factors, your doctor or care team will tell you if they recommend active surveillance. If you're a good candidate, the goal will be to keep an eye on cancer growth and catch any problems early. This approach helps you avoid treatment you may not need at the moment. However, if cancer turns out to be more aggressive than your team first thought, they may recommend moving from active surveillance to a different treatment.
Active surveillance does not cause physical side effects. However, alert your care team if you begin to experience these issues:
These issues could be signs that the cancer is growing and may need further treatment. Your team will work with you to monitor health problems, along with your PSA, to determine if active surveillance is still the best option.
While on active surveillance, you might also have prostate biopsies. The biopsy can cause some side effects, but they should be manageable.
Is active surveillance
different from watchful waiting?
You may have heard that they're the same, but active surveillance differs from watchful waiting in at least 3 ways:
Active surveillance involves regular check-ups with your doctor to monitor your PSA and check for signs of cancer growth. If your PSA levels rise and other testing confirms that the cancer is growing, your doctor will discuss further treatment options.
If at some point you decide to get further treatment after active surveillance, the goal will be to cure cancer and manage symptoms.
Active surveillance is mostly suitable for men with localized prostate cancer, whereas watchful waiting may be suitable for localized, locally advanced and advanced prostate cancer.