If tests show you have NHL, more tests will be done to see how far it has spread. This is called staging. Staging helps guide future treatment and follow-up.
Treatment depends on:
The specific type of lymphoma
The stage when you are first diagnosed
Your age and overall health
Symptoms, including weight loss, fever, and night sweats
You may receive chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or both. Or you may not need any immediate treatment. Your doctor can tell you more about your specific treatment.
Radioimmunotherapy may be used in some cases. This involves linking a radioactive substance to an antibody that targets the cancerous cells and injecting the substance into the body.
High-dose chemotherapy may be given when NHL returns after treatment or does not respond to the first treatment. This is followed by an autologous stem cell transplant (using your own stem cells) to rescue the bone marrow after the high-dose chemotherapy. With certain types of NHL, these treatment steps are used at first remission to try and achieve a cure.
Blood transfusions or platelet transfusions may be required if blood counts are low.
You can ease the stress of illness by joining a cancer support group. Sharing with others who have common experiences and problems can help you not feel alone.
Low-grade NHL usually cannot be cured by chemotherapy alone. Low-grade NHL progresses slowly and it may take many years before the disease gets worse or even requires treatment. The need for treatment is usually determined by symptoms, how fast the disease is worsening, and if blood counts are low.
Chemotherapy can often cure many types of high-grade lymphomas. If the cancer does not respond to chemotherapy, the disease can cause rapid death.
NHL itself and its treatments can lead to health problems. These include:
Autoimmune hemolytic anemia
Side effects of chemotherapy drugs
Keep following up with a doctor who knows about monitoring and preventing these complications.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if you develop symptoms of this disorder.
If you have NHL, call your health care provider if you experience persistent fever or other signs of infection.
National Cancer Institute: PDQ Adult Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment. Bethesda, Md: National Cancer Institute. Date last modified Feb. 28, 2014. Available at http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/adult-non-hodgkins/HealthProfessional. Accessed: March 23, 2014.
National Cancer Institute: PDQ Childhood Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment. Bethesda, Md: National Cancer Institute. Date last modified: Aug. 9, 2013. Available at http://cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/child-non-hodgkins/HealthProfessional. Accessed: March 23, 2014.
National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Non-Hodgkin's Lymphomas. Version 2.2014. Available at: http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/nhl.pdf. Accessed: March 23, 2014.
Wilson WH, Armitage JO. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. In: Abeloff MD, Armitage JO, Niederhuber JE, et al., eds. Clinical Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill-Livingstone; 2008:chap 112.
Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.