Quantifying the Transition from Active Surveillance to Watchful Waiting Among Men with Very Low-risk Prostate Cancer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Active surveillance (AS) is commonly used for men with low-risk prostate cancer (PCa). When life expectancy becomes too short for curative treatment to be beneficial, a change from AS to watchful waiting (WW) follows. Little is known about this change since it is rarely documented in medical records. Objective: To model transition from AS to WW and how this is affected by age and comorbidity among men with very low-risk PCa. Design, setting, and participants: National population-based healthcare registers were used for analysis. Outcome measurements and statistical analysis: Using data on PCa characteristics, age, and comorbidity, a state transition model was created to estimate the probability of changes between predefined treatments to estimate transition from AS to WW. Results and limitations: Our estimates indicate that 48% of men with very low-risk PCa starting AS eventually changed to WW over a life course. This proportion increased with age at time of AS initiation. Within 10 yr from start of AS, 10% of men aged 55 yr and 50% of men aged 70 yr with no comorbidity at initiation changed to WW. Our prevalence simulation suggests that the number of men on WW who were previously on AS will eventually stabilise after 30 yr. A limitation is the limited information from clinical follow-up visits (eg, repeat biopsies). Conclusions: We estimated that changes from AS to WW become common among men with very low-risk PCa who are elderly. This potential change to WW should be discussed with men starting on AS. Moreover, our estimates may help in planning health care resources allocated to men on AS, as the transition to WW is associated with lower demands on outpatient resources. Patient summary: Changes from active surveillance to watchful waiting will become more common among men with very low-risk prostate cancer. These observations suggest that patients need to be informed about this potential change before they start on active surveillance. The potential change from active surveillance (AS) to watchful waiting (WW) should be discussed with men starting on AS. Our estimations may help in planning health care resources allocated for men on AS, as there will be less follow-up expenditure for WW.


  • Mieke Van Hemelrijck
  • Hans Garmo
  • Lars Lindhagen
  • Ola Bratt
  • Pär Stattin
  • Jan Adolfsson
External organisations
  • Karolinska Institutet
  • Uppsala University Hospital
  • University of Cambridge
  • Norrland University Hospital
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Cancer and Oncology
  • Urology and Nephrology


  • Active surveillance, Comorbidity, Prostate cancer, Watchful waiting
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)534-541
JournalEuropean Urology
Issue number4
Early online date2016
StatePublished - 2017
Publication categoryResearch