Radiation therapy is the use of high-dose X-rays to treat cancer
cells that may remain after surgery, especially if all of the cancer cannot be
removed. Radiation therapy is often used for the treatment of cancer, such as
non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL),
Hodgkin's lymphoma, and all
types of leukemia. Radiation therapy may be used alone or in combination with
other treatment options, such as
For lymphoma or leukemia, radiation therapy may be given from a machine outside the body that directs radiation to the cancer (external radiation). Or it may be given inside the body (internal radiation), with radiation that is sealed inside of needles, seeds, wires, or catheters. The way radiation is given depends on the type and stage of cancer being treated.
Lymphoma refers to a malignancy of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a network of nodes (knots of tissue) connected by vessels. Together, the lymph nodes drain fluid and waste products from the body. The lymph nodes act as tiny filters, removing foreign organisms and cells.
Lymphocytes, are a type of white blood cell that helps fight infections caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. The lymph node function is to prevent infections from entering the bloodstream. When the lymphatic...
Side effects are common but generally go away when treatment is
finished. They include:
Low blood counts, which may increase the risk
of infection and bleeding.
Redness and itching
of the skin in the radiation field. The skin may look as though you have a bad
Hair loss in the area inside the radiation
Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea if the abdomen or pelvis is
Why It Is Done
When used during early-stage or nonaggressive NHL, radiation
therapy is used to treat cells that may remain after surgery, especially if all
of the cancer cannot be removed. Radiation may be used alone or in combination
with other treatment options, such as chemotherapy. Radiation is also
palliative care if chemotherapy is not
Radiation therapy is used to help keep an acute leukemia from
spreading to the central nervous system (CNS prophylaxis). It is also used to
treat recurrent leukemia that has spread to the brain or spinal cord.
How Well It Works
For some stages of leukemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
(NHL), radiation therapy works well when used alone. But it may be used in combination with chemotherapy, depending on the type and the stage of the cancer.
The short-term side effects of radiation therapy are common but usually get better
and go away when treatments stop. These side effects depend on the area of the body
affected by treatments and may include:
Low blood counts, which may increase your risk
of infection or bleeding.
Redness and irritation in the
A dry mouth and difficulty in
Changes in taste.
Hair loss in
the treatment area. Whether your hair grows back depends on the area treated,
the dose of radiation, and the type of radiation used.
of the skin.
The long-term side effects of radiation therapy depend on what part of your body was treated, how much radiation you were given, and how long your treatment lasted. For example, radiation therapy to the pelvis may cause permanent
sterility. Other long-term side effects may include brain changes, joint problems, lymphedema, mouth problems, and other cancers. These side effects depend on whether you also had chemotherapy.
What To Think About
Radiation therapy to the pelvis may cause permanent sterility.
Discuss fertility options with your doctor before you begin pelvic
radiation for NHL or CLL.
Unlike general radiation therapy,
targeted radiation therapy uses monoclonal antibodies,
which deliver radiation directly to the lymphoma cells.