What to Know About Your Treatment Choices for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma can be treated. The choices you have for treatment depend on these factors:
Results of your lab tests
The type of lymphoma you have
The extent of the disease called the stage
What the lymphoma cells look like called the grade
Your age and the status of your health
Your personal needs and preferences
Treatment may control or cure the lymphoma. It can also improve your quality of life by controlling symptoms of the disease.
Once you know your type, stage, and grade of lymphoma, it is time to decide on a treatment plan. This section will help you understand your treatment options and what’s best for you. Talking about your treatment choices will be one of the most important meetings you will have with your doctor.
Deciding on the best plan may take some time. Talk with your doctor about how much time you can take to explore your options. You may want to get another opinion before deciding on your treatment plan. And you may want to involve your family and friends in this process.
Understanding the goals of treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma
The goal of non-Hodgkin lymphoma treatment is to do one or more of these things:
Kill the lymphoma cells as quickly as possible
Stop the growth of new lymphoma cells
Treat side effects of the lymphoma, such as pain or pressure on organs
Maintain a sense of control over your treatment choices and life
Types of treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma
In some cases, a doctor may recommend not starting treatment right away. This is called watchful waiting. It is most common with some types of slow-growing lymphomas.
You may have several options for treatment. These are the most common ones:
Chemotherapy. For this treatment, you take one or more drugs to kill lymphoma cells throughout your body. You may have this treatment along with other types of treatment.
Radiation therapy. This treatment kills lymphoma cells with high-energy X-rays. It is often combined with chemotherapy. If it’s combined with immunotherapy, it’s called radioimmunotherapy.
Immunotherapy. For this treatment, you take man-made substances that are like the ones your immune system makes. They help your immune system fight the lymphoma.
Surgery. A surgeon may take out an organ, such as your spleen, if it has lymphoma.
Stem cell transplant. This treatment kills lymphoma with high doses of radiation and chemotherapy. These doses can also destroy your bone marrow, which makes red and white blood cells and platelets. Because of this damage, your doctor replaces your bone marrow with healthy bone marrow cells. Before your treatment, the doctor collects these cells either from you or from a donor. In either case, the cells are given back to you after your treatment with chemotherapy or radiation.
Your doctor may suggest that you have more than one of these types of treatment. Newer types of treatment may only be available through a research study. This is called a clinical trial. You can ask your doctor about whether there is a clinical trial you should consider.