The goal of this approach is to watch the leukemia closely to see if it progresses or starts to cause any symptoms. If it does not, it may be better to wait to begin any type of treatment, particularly those that cause severe side effects. Research has proved that watchful waiting doesn't cause harm, compared with immediate treatment for early stage CLL.
Your doctor may recommend watchful waiting in the following situations:
You have stage 0 CLL.
You have stage I CLL with few or no symptoms.
You have stage II CLL with few or no symptoms.
Your doctor will monitor your disease to see if it gets worse or if you begin to develop symptoms that require treatment. Your doctor will watch for recurring infections and rapid swelling in certain organs, such as your lymph nodes, liver, or spleen. These changes may mean that the disease is getting worse or progressing. You will need to have your blood drawn on a regular basis to check your blood cell counts. Your doctor may do this every few weeks to every few months.
CLL usually progresses much more slowly than acute types of leukemia, so you can potentially live with the disease for quite a while without any problems. Watch for these symptoms:
Unexplained weight loss
Enlarged lymph nodes
If you start having symptoms or if your doctor sees signs that the disease is progressing, you will undergo a treatment or series of treatments. The type of treatment you have depends on the stage of your CLL.