Watchful waiting for chronic lymphocytic leukemia

If you have chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) but don’t have any symptoms, you may be offered watchful waiting (also called active surveillance). This means that your healthcare team watches your cancer closely rather than giving treatment right away. They will use tests and exams to check if CLL is progressing or your condition is getting worse. Treatment is given when you develop symptoms or the cancer changes.

This approach helps avoid problems or side effects that can happen with treatments such as chemotherapy or biological therapy. There isn’t any evidence so far that watchful waiting reduces long-term survival or has other negative effects if or when you start treatment.

Expert review and references

  • American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). Leukemia - Chronic Lymphocytic - CLL: Treatment Options. Alexandria, VA.: American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO); 2014: http://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/leukemia-chronic-lymphocytic-cll/treatment-options.
  • Borthakur G, O'Brien S . Treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia and related disorders. Wiernik PH, Goldman JM, Dutcher JP & Kyle RA (eds.). Neoplastic Diseases of the Blood. 5th ed. Springer; 2013: 9: pp. 121-119.
  • Mir Muhammad A . Chronic lymphocytic leukemia treatment & management. eMedicine.Medscape.com. WebMD LLC; 2014.
  • National Cancer Institute. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia Treatment (PDQ®) Health Professional Version. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute; 2014.