Most children's cancers need active treatment. But on rare occasions, some types of cancer can change and become benign (lumps of tissue that are not cancerous). Children with these types of cancer may not need any specific treatment, but they will be closely monitored. Your child’s doctor will decide if this is a good option.
Careful observation means that your child will be monitored closely but not given any treatment unless the cancer changes or grows. This is because all treatments have side effects, and it can sometimes be better to delay treatment. Some children who are under careful observation may remain well without treatment.
Careful observation involves regular check-ups and tests (such as those described in How is cancer diagnosed) to check whether the cancer is changing. If a test result indicates that the cancer has changed (e.g. the tumour has grown bigger), or if your child develops symptoms that they didn’t have when they were diagnosed, your child will have more tests to decide whether they should start active treatment (such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy or stem cell transplant).
If it is safe, careful observation can minimise the disruption caused by cancer treatment to the lives of you and your child.
Careful observation is not a good option for cancers that are aggressive or fast growing.