My brother was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer but is not on any treatment regimen other than what is considered “watchful waiting.” What exactly is that?

According to the National Cancer Institute, “watchful waiting” is closely monitoring a patient’s condition but withholding treatment until symptoms appear or change.

Watchful waiting can also be called active surveillance, expectant management and observation.

This is an option that is given to prostate cancer patients with slow-growing, early-stage cancer or if they are an older patient with serious health conditions.

This option is chosen when the risks of side effects outweigh the benefits. Check-ups during “watchful waiting” are usually every 3-6 months with an annual biopsy to check the Gleason score — a system of grading prostate cancer tissue.

The NCI has compiled a list of questions to ask the doctor about watchful waiting:

  • If I choose active surveillance, can I change my mind later on?
  • Is it safe for me to put off treatment?
  • How often will I have checkups? Which tests will I need? Will I need a repeat biopsy?
  • How will we know if the prostate cancer is getting worse?
  • Between checkups, what problems should I tell you about?

For more information contact Courtney Britton, librarian at Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge at (225) 927-2273, , or visit the Education Center at 550 Lobdell Ave., Baton Rouge.


NCI: What You Need to Know about Prostate Cancer

This column is presented as a service by Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, a United Way affiliate.