What is watchful waiting?

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Watchful waiting (surveillance) for non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL): Overview

Watchful waiting (surveillance) is a period in the treatment of some types of NHL in which you are not having treatment. It does not mean that your doctors are giving up or refusing to give you treatment.

Watchful waiting

Watchful waiting is a wait-and-see approach to treatment. You may have regular checkups and tests, but you won't have treatment unless your condition or symptoms get worse. Watchful waiting may be an option for conditions that progress slowly or that may improve on their own. It lets you avoid or postpone treatments that may have more risks than benefits.

Watchful waiting may also be called active surveillance, observation, or expectant management.

How well does watchful waiting (surveillance) for non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) work?

Watchful waiting is often as effective as having treatment for some types of NHL. Some people with slow-growing NHL may live a long time without symptoms.

What can you expect during watchful waiting (surveillance) for non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL)?

During this time, you will:

  • See your doctor on a regular basis.
  • Have regular medical tests. These may include blood tests, such as chemistry screens and complete blood counts (CBCs). They may also include imaging tests, such as a CT scan.
  • Be told which symptoms to report to your doctor immediately.

What are the risks of watchful waiting (surveillance) for non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL)?

There do not seem to be any risks involved in watchful waiting for some types of NHL when you are being watched closely by your doctor. If your lymphoma changes, other treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy may be used to control your disease.

Why is watchful waiting (surveillance) for non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) done?

Watchful waiting may be an option for you if:

  • Your lymphoma is slow-growing (indolent or low-grade).
  • Your lymphoma may be a kind that does not respond well to chemotherapy or radiation therapy in its current state.
  • You are living comfortably and do not have significant symptoms from your lymphoma.

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