It's important that your doctor is experienced in treating patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) or works in consultation with an NHL specialist. This type of specialist is usually called a hematologist oncologist.
Types of Treatment
Doctors use several types of approaches and treatment combinations for NHL, some at different stages:
- Chemotherapy and other drug therapy
- Radiation therapy, usually combined with chemotherapy
- Stem cell transplantation
- Your doctor may suggest that you participate in a clinical trial. Clinical trials can involve therapy with new drugs and new drug combinations or new approaches to stem cell transplantation.
There can also be vast differences between treatment for aggressive NHL and treatment for indolent NHL. Read about each:
Adults of childbearing age and parents of children diagnosed with HL should ask their doctors for information that may lessen the risk for infertility. See the free LLS publication Fertility Facts for more details.
Finding the Best Treatment Approach
The goal of NHL treatment is to destroy as many lymphoma cells as possible to induce a complete remission (no trace of the disease). Patients who go into remission are sometimes cured of the disease.
Treatment can keep NHL in check for many years, even if tests show some lingering lymphoma cells. This is called partial remission.
The treatment your doctor recommends is based on several factors, including:
- Your disease subtype
- Whether your disease is aggressive (fast growing) or indolent (slow growing)
- Your disease stage and category
- Whether the lymphoma is in areas of your body other than your lymph nodes (extranodal involvement)
- Your overall health and whether you have any conditions like heart disease, kidney disease, lung disease, diabetes or anemia
As you develop a treatment plan with your doctor, be sure to discuss:
- The results you can expect from treatment
- Potential side effects, including long-term and late-term effects
- The possibility of participating in a clinical trial, where you'll have access to advanced medical treatment that may be more beneficial to you than standard treatment
You may find it helpful to bring a loved one with you to your doctor's visits for support, to take notes and ask follow-up questions. It's a good idea to prepare questions you'd like to ask when you visit your doctor. You can also record your conversations with your doctor and listen more closely when you get home.
Click here to download lists of suggested questions to ask your healthcare providers.
Other Treatment Considerations
- If you're of child-bearing age, talk with your doctor about the treatment's possible long-term effects on fertility. Download or order The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's (LLS's) free fact sheet Fertility Facts.
- If your child is being treated for NHL, therapy may differ from that of the average adult. You also need to be concerned about the treatment's long-term effects including effects on fertility. Read more about Childhood Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.
- If you're age 60 or older, your treatment may vary from standard approaches. For instance, your body may not be able to tolerate toxic chemotherapy drugs or you may have other ailments that are more common as we age. These factors, among others, may make choosing a treatment more complicated. However, older age is not a major determinant in treatment for most patients.
For many people with non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), starting treatment helps them focus on moving ahead and looking forward to their disease's remission.