Questions to Ask Before Starting Watch & Wait

Questions to Ask Before Starting Watch & Wait

Reviewed by Jasper Clinical Board

Last updated 5/24/21

If your doctor has recommended watch & wait as part of your cancer treatment plan, you’ll likely have questions about what’s ahead. From clarifying terminology to going through the timeline of upcoming events, this is an important part of the process, helping you and your caregivers to work as a team to further your health. To get you started, here are some questions you might ask. Know that it’s perfectly okay (and often encouraged) to bring a pen and paper to take notes, to record the conversation, or to bring a companion into the meeting to help you listen, take notes, and gather more information. In addition, always feel free to ask for clarification on (and how to spell) terms you don’t understand.
  1. What is my diagnosis and how do I spell it?
  2. Are there genetic mutations or features of this cancer that would suggest it will progress slower or faster?
  3. Why are you recommending we monitor this cancer rather than treat it at this time?
  4. What does monitoring consist of for this cancer? Blood draws? Imaging? Physical examinations?
  5. What do you need to see happen in order to start treatment?
  6. How often will I be making visits to the oncology clinic to monitor this cancer? What will change the interval between visits?
  7. Can you give me the names of the medications or drugs that would treat this cancer if it does require treatment someday? (So you can research side effects and cost.)
  8. Are there clinical trials allowing people to receive treatment sooner rather than later with this cancer diagnosis?
  9. Are there clinical trials that could more closely monitor someone like me with this cancer diagnosis?
  10. Can you connect me with a cancer psychologist, therapist, or a support group for people with my diagnosis or who are also undergoing an active surveillance protocol?
  11. What would you want to know and do if you had this diagnosis?
  12. Am I able to see an oncologist who specializes in this type of cancer at a National Cancer Institute Center of Excellence or other top rated/credentialed cancer center to get a second opinion or validate this course of action? (This may be possible as a “second opinion” or one-off visit, even if your insurance does not want to pay outright for you to receive care there.)

The content on this website is intended to provide the best possible information for you, but should not be considered—or used as a substitute for—medical advice. If you have questions about your diagnosis or treatment, please contact your health care provider(s). For questions or comments about this content, please email us at