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Treatment Options for Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma

A doctor talks with a patient about treatment options for Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.There are a variety of treatments for Non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Non-Hodgkins lymphoma can be treated. Treatment may control or cure the lymphoma. It can also improve your quality of life by controlling symptoms of the disease.

The goal of non-Hodgkins lymphoma treatment is to do one or more of these things.

Types of Treatment for Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma

Four types of standard treatment are used:

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells and keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer. The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.


Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly into the cerebrospinal fluid, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy). To treat certain types of adult non-Hodgkins lymphoma that spread to the brain, CNS treatment (chemotherapy given to kill cancer cells in the brain or spinal cord) may be used. The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.

Combination chemotherapy is treatment using two or more anticancer drugs. Steroid drugs may be added, to relieve swelling and inflammation, in addition to killing the lymphoma.

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells without harming normal cells. Monoclonal antibody therapy is one type of targeted therapy used to treat adult non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Monoclonal antibody therapy is a cancer treatment that uses antibodies made in the laboratory. These antibodies can identify substances on cancer cells or normal substances that may help cancer cells grow. The antibodies attach to the substances and kill the cancer cells, block their growth, or keep them from spreading. Monoclonal antibodies are given by infusion. They may be used alone or to carry drugs, toxins, or radioactive material directly to cancer cells. Monoclonal antibodies that have been joined to radioactive material are called radiolabeled monoclonal antibodies, such as Zevalin and Bexxar.

Watchful waiting

Watchful waiting is closely monitoring a patient’s condition without giving any treatment until symptoms appear or change.  Some patients may be watched closely for over a decade before therapy is needed.

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