Active surveillance—in the past also called “watchful waiting" and “expectant management”—refers to a strategy of forgoing immediate treatment after a diagnosis of prostate cancer in favor of regularly scheduled testing and clinical exams to closely monitor the disease.
Active surveillance includes prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing, digital rectal exams (DRE), and prostate biopsies. If, at some point, there are indications that the disease is progressing—such as significant growth in the tumor or a rapid increase in PSA level or higher tumor grade on biopsy—definitive treatments such as surgery or radiation therapy can be pursued. (NCI Bulletin 011210)
Not every doctor means the same thing when they say "watchful waiting," so it is important to ask your doctor what he or she means if they use this term. To find a physician at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, go to Find a Doctor.