Prostate cancer treatment options depend on a number of factors, such as how fast the cancer is growing, how far it has spread, a patient’s overall health, age, as well as the benefits and potential side effects of treatment.

Because prostate cancer is usually slow growing, men who are diagnosed when their cancer is in its earliest stages might not need treatment at all. Instead, doctors sometimes recommend what’s called watchful waiting or active surveillance. If a patient chooses watchful waiting they will usually undergo regular follow-up blood tests, rectal exams and possibly biopsies to monitor the progression of the cancer.

Watchful waiting may be an option for cancer that isn't causing symptoms, is expected to grow very slowly and is confined to a small area of the prostate. Watchful waiting may also be considered for a man who has another serious health condition or an advanced age that makes cancer treatment more difficult.

A patient may be inclined to consider active surveillance over treatments that are likely to cause major side effects, or if he is younger and otherwise healthy, he might be more willing to tolerate the side effects of treatment if they offer the best chance for cure.