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Some forms of cancer do not require immediate treatment. There are occasions when the side effects of cancer treatment outweigh the benefits. Surveillance, or watchful waiting, is a common option for prostate cancer, but also can be an option for other forms of cancer if the tumor is small, slow-growing, and completely contained.

Surveillance for Cancer Patients

You and your doctor may opt for active surveillance. Your cancer will be closely monitored, but you will not have any active treatment until it is needed. This conservative approach potentially allows you to avoid the side effects of treatment. However, this option is not appropriate for all cancers. Your cancer may grow during active surveillance, limiting your treatment options.

Your physician will discuss a plan for testing and monitoring you on a regular basis. If you have any concerns, do not feel you can adhere to a regular schedule of testing and appointments, or find yourself often worrying about your cancer, active surveillance may not be a good option for you.

Surveillance After Genetic Testing

Heightened surveillance may be recommended for you if the results of genetic testing show you to be at higher risk for developing cancer. This means you’ll receive screenings more frequently, start screenings at a younger age than usual, or have a different kind of screening, for the type of cancer for which you have high risk. Not every type of cancer has a widely-used screening method, but the most prevalent cancers do, and doctors are constantly investigating new screening methods.