Some people can manage their non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) with their doctors for years using a watch-and-wait approach. By using the watch-and-wait method, your doctor can monitor your condition with regular physical exams and lab tests. You won't take any drugs or undergo any NHL treatment during this period. Watch and wait is one treatment approach used for indolent NHL.
You may feel uncomfortable because you know that you have cancer, yet you're not being treated right away. Rest assured that the watch-and-wait approach is the standard of care for people whose disease is not widespread and who have no symptoms. The watch-and-wait approach lets you avoid therapy's side effects until you need treatment. Treating NHL during this early stage has not proved to be helpful.
You must visit your doctor regularly so he or she can check you for any health changes, specifically watching whether your disease remains stable or starts to progress. Your doctor monitors your test results to decide when it's time to start treatment and what the best treatment option is for you. About half of all patients can put off treatment for at least three years. Some patients who've been in watch-and-wait mode for more than 10 years have never needed treatment.
Watch and wait can also be the best approach for some patients diagnosed with widespread NHL that treatment won't likely cure. The disease, though widespread, can remain stable for years, letting them avoid the side effects of needless therapy.
When to Begin Treatment
Your doctor may advise you to begin treatment if you have:
- Lymph nodes that are getting larger
- Newly affected lymph nodes
- Bone or other organs that have become affected by NHL
- A decrease in the number of blood cells