Treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) depends on:
- The stage of the disease.
- The type of lymphoma. The kind of treatment you have will depend on whether you have B-cell or T-cell lymphoma and whether it is fast-growing or slow-growing.
- The size of the tumor, where the lymphoma is located, and what organs are involved.
- Your general health.
Your doctor will work with you and your medical team (which may include an oncologist, a hematologist, and an oncology nurse) to come up with your treatment plan.
- Watchful waiting (surveillance) is a period of time after the diagnosis of some types of NHL when you are not receiving treatment but are still being watched closely by your doctor.
- Radiation therapy is often the treatment of choice for localized slow-growing (indolent or low-grade) NHL. For more information, see Other Treatment.
- Chemotherapy kills cancer cells or stops them from dividing. The way chemotherapy is taken depends on the type and stage of cancer.
- Targeted therapy with monoclonal antibodies destroys cancer cells without harming normal cells.
- A stem cell transplant may be used to treat NHL that has come back. Or it may be used right after you have very high-dose chemotherapy.
A common concern of cancer patients are the side effects of treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. Your medical team will let you know ahead of time what side effects you can expect and help you manage them. And there are things you can do at home. To learn more, see Home Treatment.
Sometimes NHL comes back after treatment. This is called recurrence or relapse. Treatments for recurrent NHL include chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of the two. This treatment may be followed by a stem cell transplant.
You will need regular exams after you have been treated for NHL.
Let your doctor know if you have any problems as soon as they appear.
Finding out that you have cancer can change your life. You may feel like your world has turned upside down and you have lost all control. Talking with family, friends, or a counselor can really help. Ask your doctor about support groups. Or call the American Cancer Society (1-800-227-2345) or visit its website at www.cancer.org.
For support in managing the many changes that having cancer can bring, see the topic Getting Support When You Have Cancer.
What to think about
Your doctor may use the term "remission" instead of "cure" when talking about the effectiveness of your treatment. Although many people with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are successfully treated, the term remission is used because cancer can return. It is important to discuss with your doctor the possibility of recurrence.
Even after effective treatment for NHL, you may be at slightly higher risk for other types of cancer, especially melanoma, lung, brain, kidney, and bladder cancers. Be watchful for any symptoms of cancer.
Additional information about NHL is provided by the National Cancer Institute at www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/non-hodgkin.
Palliative care is a kind of care for people who have a serious illness. It's different from care to cure your illness. Its goal is to improve your quality of life-not just in your body but also in your mind and spirit. You can have this care along with treatment to cure your illness.
Palliative care providers will work to help control pain or side effects. They may help you decide what treatment you want or don't want. And they can help your loved ones understand how to support you.
If you're interested in palliative care, talk to your doctor.
For more information, see the topic Palliative Care.
For some people who have advanced cancer, a time comes when treatment to cure the cancer no longer seems like a good choice. This can be because the side effects, time, and costs of treatment are greater than the promise of cure or relief. But you can still get treatment to make you as comfortable as possible during the time you have left. You and your doctor can decide when you may be ready for hospice care.
For more information, see the topics: