Watchful waiting (surveillance) for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

Treatment Overview

Watchful waiting (surveillance) is a period in the treatment of some types of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) in which little or no treatment is done. It does not mean that your health professionals are giving up or refusing to give you treatment.

What To Expect After Treatment

During this time, you will:

  • Receive periodic medical tests, including chest X-rays, CT scans, and blood tests, such as chemistry screens and complete blood counts (CBCs).
  • See your doctor on a regular basis.
  • Be told which symptoms to report to your health professional immediately.

Why It Is Done

Watchful waiting may be an option for you if:

  • Your lymphoma is slow-growing (indolent or low to intermediate 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.

How Well It Works

Watchful waiting is often as effective as more aggressive treatment for some types of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL).1 People with advanced low-grade lymphomas can often live a long time without symptoms.

Risks

There are no risks involved in watchful waiting for some types of NHL. If your lymphoma changes, other treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, may be used to control your disease.

What To Think About

Watchful waiting may be a good option if your lymphoma is not the type that can be cured with standard therapy, you are not having troublesome symptoms, and standard therapy is not likely to prolong your life.

Watchful waiting ends when one of the following occurs:

  • Symptoms develop.
  • Lymphoma tumor size is larger than 2 in. (5 cm).
  • Organs do not function normally.

Complete the special treatment information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this treatment.

References

Citations

  1. Ardeshna KM, et al. (2003). Long-term effect of a watch and wait policy versus immediate systemic treatment for asymptomatic advanced-stage non-Hodgkin lymphoma: A randomised controlled trial. Lancet, 362(9383): 516–522.

Last Updated: April 22, 2008

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