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What does watchful waiting mean?

Community member asks: What does watchful waiting mean?

  1. Upon a diagnosis of certain blood cancers, i.e. NH Lymphoma, the MD may closely monitor the patient if no immediate symptoms are noted. In my personal experience, a diagnosis of Follicular Lymphoma was made in September 2010. Since I had no symptoms and the enlarged nodes were not causing an immediate threat, my oncologist decided to "watch and wait" before further treatment. This recommendation was confirmed by the second opinion of an oncologist at a cancer Center. The published research has demonstrated that the patient outcomes are unchanged whether treatment is started immediately or after the watchful waiting. I was most confused by this approach as in other cancers, treatment is begun immediately. However, my lymph nodes continued to grow, and could cause other organ damage. Therefore, I needed to begin chemotherapy within the year, July 2011.
    It is important to ask your physician to explain your particular situation.

    1. Some cancers are slow growing and rather than rushing into treatment your MD's may choose to " watch and wait" to see if the disease progress. The terms active surveillance and watchful waiting are often used interchangeably but are slightly different.
      Having been treated for prostate cancer I can tell you the term "active surveillance" in this case suggests a more aggressive type of follow up ( more frequent testing scans and biopsies etc). Men generally tend to pay more attention when an MD indicates there is a need to be actively engaged.
      By contrast "watchful waiting is a bit more relaxed. In either case this a good idea for the patient to stay involved with his or her medical team. Too often for some the term "watchful waiting" can suggest the patient can relax and safely disengage.
      Dennis(Blood-Cancer.net TEAM)

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