Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Treatment

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma treatment depends on the type of cancer you have, its stage, your health and your age. If only one lymph node is affected by the tumor, you can definitely be cured by radiotherapy. In advanced non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, survival chance decreased considerably. In general, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma treatment includes radiotherapy, chemotherapy, biotherapy, and other therapeutic methods such as stem cell transplantation.

Radiotherapy (Radiation therapy) 

Radiotherapy consists of using high doses of X-rays to kill cancer cells in order to eliminate or shrink the tumor. If the cancer is too advanced to be completely destroyed, radiation therapy can reduce symptoms and prolong your life. In the case of a non aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphoma, radiotherapy combined with chemotherapy can lead to a complete cure in about 50% of cases.


Chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs to kill cancer cells and prevent metastases. Chemotherapy is often used to treat advanced non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Sometimes, the cancer does not response to the chemotherapy; if so, your oncologist will intensify the chemotherapy drugs to increase your survival chances. In general, a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy is used to treat voluminous lymphomas or to reduce pain or bleeding caused by the tumor.

Stem cell transplant 

High dose of chemotherapy always leads to damage in the bone marrow. To repair this damage, your oncologist can perform or recommend a stem cell transplantation. The stem cell transplantation is performed to replace damaged blood cells by healthy stem cells, instead of waiting for your body to produce them. Usually, healthy stem cells are taken from you or a compatible donor before the treatment and then frozen to be injected in your body after the chemotherapy. In patients under 55 years, the bone marrow can give very satisfactory results.

Biotherapy (immunotherapy) 

Also called immunotherapy, biotherapy is to use substances to stimulate the natural defense (immune system) of your body so it can attack and destroy the cancer cells. One of the biotherapy drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of B cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is Rituximab (Rituxan); it often is associated with radioimmunotherapy. The most common side effects of Rituximab include:

  • headache
  • nausea
  • facial flushing
  • Dizziness.


Radioimmunotherapy is a therapeutic method consists of injecting in your body a radioactive antibody that has the property to bind selectively to tumor cells. This therapy is performed to irradiate small tumors scattered throughout your body. Two radioimmunotherapy drugs currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the treatment of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are ibritumomab (Zevalin) and tositumomab (Bexxar).

Common side effects of those drugs include: 

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • headache
  • stomach upset
  • dizziness
  • Flu-like symptoms: cough, chills, muscle aches.

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