For many men, especially older men, with prostate cancer, the cancer is so slow-growing that is unlikely to affect a man during his lifetime. Active surveillance -- sometimes referred to as watchful waiting or expectant management -- may be right for these men.
During active surveillance the doctor will carefully monitor the cancer’s course with prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests, digital rectal exams, and periodic biopsies to determine whether and when treatment is needed. If the cancer continues to grow slowly and does not cause symptoms, the patient and doctor may decide to maintain the active surveillance approach.
This approach enables men to avoid the potentially debilitating effects of aggressive cancer treatment if the cancer is unlikely to adversely affect their lives.
The active surveillance approach may sometimes be chosen for men between the ages of 50 and 80 who have very small and non-aggressive cancers and are fit for radical treatment.
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