How Can Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma Be Treated?

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There are a few ways non-Hodgkin's lymphoma can be treated. Treatment may include Chemotherapy, Radiation, Immunotherapy, Stem Cell Transplant, and sometimes Surgery.

Depending on the stage and type of the non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, treatment options are customized for each patient in order to find the best course of action.

The standard forms of treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation
  • Immunotherapy
  • Stem Cell Transplant
  • Surgery


A staple treatment for many forms of cancer, chemotherapy involves anti-cancer drugs being administered either orally or intravenously. These drugs enter the bloodstream and attack fast-dividing cells. Chemo is given in cycles, allowing a patient’s body time to recover after treatment. A treatment cycle may last several weeks and can usually be received on an outpatient basis. In some extreme cases, chemotherapy may require the patient to remain hospitalized.


Radiation is a common treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma found in its early stages (I & II). A concentrated beam of radiation is focused on cancer locations in the body, attempting to kill the cancerous cells. This treatment is usually painless and may take only minutes to complete a session. Radiation treatment is often administered 5 days a week for several consecutive weeks. It is sometimes paired with chemotherapy for more advanced stages of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.


Immunotherapy is the attempt to boost the body’s immune system to help fight cancer. A boosted immune system may kill the cancer cells or slow their growth.

Monoclonal Antibodies are man-made antibodies are designed to attack specific targets, such as the lymphocytes where lymphomas start.

Interferon is a protein consisting of white blood cells that can help the immune systems fight infections. Man-made interferon has been linked to slowed or stopped lymphoma growth.

Immunomodulating Agents are a poorly understood form of treatment, and are usually tried after other treatments have failed. They have been linked with fewer side effects than traditional cancer drugs.

Stem Cell Transplant

Stem Cell Transplants allow for a higher dose of chemotherapy than the body could usually tolerate. Chemotherapy prevents new blood cells from being formed by destroying bone marrow. To get around this, doctors administer blood stem cells to the patient in order to increase cell production.

There are two types of transplants. An autologous transplant is when the patient's own stem cells are removed weeks before treatment, giving the body time to create more. They are then replaced after treatment. An allogenic transplant refers to when the stem cells come from someone other than the patient.


Surgery is sometimes used to treat a contained lymphoma that started in an organ outside the lymph system. It is also used to obtain biopsy samples for lymphoma diagnosis and classification.
Photo by Sanja Gjenero

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