Monitoring means your doctor will keep a close eye on you rather than recommending treatment straight away. You may feel fearful or angry about monitoring your cancer rather than receiving treatment. But all treatments have side effects, and your doctor will not recommend treatment if he or she believes the risks outweigh any benefit you might get.
There are two types of monitoring. Check with your doctor which type you are being offered.
The aim of active surveillance is to avoid unnecessary treatments. If your doctor has recommended active surveillance, you have low-risk prostate cancer, which has been found at an early stage. Your doctor does not anticipate that the cancer will cause you any immediate symptoms or problems.
Active surveillance may continue for many years if your prostate risk does not increase, but it requires you to follow a scheduled regime which includes PSA tests, prostate checks, as well as an MRI and/or repeated prostate biopsies.
Up to half of men on active surveillance never need treatment. If the tests show that your tumour is growing or changing at any stage, you will be offered treatment. Your treatment options, such as surgery, will aim to cure the cancer.
The aim of watchful waiting is to delay or to avoid the side effects of treatment. If your doctor has recommended watchful waiting, you may not be well enough to have surgery or radiotherapy. It could also be because your doctor does not anticipate that the cancer will cause any problem in your lifetime. Your doctor will prepare a follow-up plan with you, including what checks and tests you will have and how often.
Some men on watchful waiting may still need treatment. If the tests show that your tumour is growing at any stage, or the cancer cells have started to spread to other organs, you will be offered treatment. The treatment offered will aim to control the spread of the cancer and manage any symptoms you have.