Glossary of Medical Terms

Active Surveillance (Watchful Waiting)

Active surveillance (watchful waiting) is a wait-and-see approach. The person may get better (or not get worse) without treatment. And if the condition gets worse, the person and his or her doctor will decide what to do next.

Sometimes active surveillance means the person doesn't need to contact the doctor unless a problem gets worse. But often it means that the person is being watched closely by his or her doctor to see if treatment may be needed. During this time, visits to the doctor for checkups and tests may be needed.

The length of the active surveillance period is determined by:

  • The severity of the symptoms.

  • The progression of the problem if not treated.

  • The risks and benefits of waiting.

  • The person's age and medical history. 

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