Most people assume that if they have a medical condition immediate treatment is the best option. However, research has shown that may not always be the case. Sometimes, people can watch and wait with good results.
What is Watchful Waiting?
The watch and wait, or watchful waiting method means that doctors are not actively treating a certain condition. Instead, they closely monitor the condition.
Why Watch and Wait?
Why would someone choose to watch and wait rather than get immediate treatment for an illness or condition? Doctors may advise the watch and wait approach to get a better idea of disease progression. It may also help to watch and wait in order to decide on the correct course of treatment for a particular condition. Some people choose to watch and wait because they have other medical conditions that make immediate treatment risky. Still others may delay treatment because they are already close to death and want to maintain their current quality of life.
Benefits of the Watch and Wait Method
There are several benefits to employing the watch and wait method. Sometimes conditions can clear up on their own without treatment. Watchful waiting may also save someone from costly or invasive treatment. It may also save them from some of the serious side effects of treatments such as chemotherapy or surgery. Sometimes delaying treatment doesn’t change the chance of disease cure as in germ cell ovarian tumors. Sometimes the watch and wait method provides physicians and patients the time to decide on the most effective course of treatment.
Drawbacks of the Watchful Waiting
If you choose the watch and wait method, one of the biggest drawbacks is that your condition may get worse. You cancer may spread. Your infection may become life threatening. Your disease may become incurable. Waiting could also increase the chances that a disease will recur. And, of course, waiting may ultimately increase your chances of dying from a condition. It is important for people considering using the watch and wait method be fully informed of the implications of their decision to delay treatment.
When should you watch and wait when it comes to your health? Here are some important considerations.
Lack of Symptoms
For the most part, the decision of when to employ the watch and wait technique is solely the patient’s. Obviously, if you are experiencing major symptoms that are interfering with your quality of life, watchful waiting may not be for you. One time it may be advisable to watch and wait is when you don’t have any symptoms. While lack of symptoms doesn’t mean lack of serious disease, it can mean that a disease is at a lower stage.
Non Life Threatening Conditions May Improve Without Treatment
Non life threatening conditions such as colds, the flu, ear infections or croup may benefit from watchful waiting. These illnesses usually get better on their own regardless of treatment. For example, viruses like the flu need to run their full course. Yes, people are miserable when they have the flu but if they take basic precautions to prevent complications like dehydration, they will eventually recover. Unnecessary or overtreatment should always be avoided.
Immediate Treatment May Not Be As Effective
Some diseases are less treatable if caught at an early stage. Some cancers are less responsive to chemotherapy and radiation in the early stages. In these cases the watch and wait method can help ensure effective treatment.
It May Not Significantly Change Your Prognosis
Researchers had recently issued their findings that certain people with types of cancers can safely employ the watch and wait method for up to six months without experiencing any adverse health effects. A recent study found that men with slow growing prostate cancer only increase their odds of survival past 10 years by 5 percent by starting treatment immediately versus waiting.
Resistance to Drugs
Sometimes it is advisable to use the watch and wait method to avoid overuse of medications. An ear infection that clears up without treatment with a course of antibiotics has saved that person from possible antibiotic overuse and reduced the chances of developing a resistance to the drug.
Avoid Side Effects of Treatment
Some medical treatments may cause serious side effects or even other medical conditions to develop.
Ultimately, the decision to wait and see where health issues are concerned is up to the patient. Although there are amazing treatments available for almost every condition or disease, sometimes immediate treatment may not always be the best course of action. Individuals should weigh the pros and cons of employing the watch and wait method to their unique situation.
Disclaimer: This article is intended for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of a physician or other medical professionals.
Web MD: Ear Infections in Children
Web MD: Watchful Waiting for Prostate Cancer