Watchful waiting (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 watchful waiting means the person doesn't need to contact the doctor unless a problem gets worse. But often watchful waiting means that the person is waiting to have treatment. During this time, visits to the doctor for checkups and tests may be needed.

The length of the watchful waiting 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.

Last Updated: June 27, 2008

Author: Bets Davis, MFA

Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Christopher G. Wood, MD, FACS - Urology/Oncology

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