Childhood Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma: Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Chemotherapy is delivered many different ways depending on the drugs and treatment. Intravenous means delivered by inserting a needle in a vein, orally is by mouth, and via catheter or port is by a tube inserted into the chest via a surgical procedure.

Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment because the drugs enter the bloodstream, travel through the body, and can kill cancer cells throughout the body. Chemotherapy can also be put into the fluid that surrounds the brain through a needle in the brain or back (intrathecal chemotherapy) to treat certain types of NHL that has spread to the brain.

Chemotherapy is given in measured doses. Often a chemotherapy regime will be given in cycles - treatments spaced over the period of days. The number of cycles vary according to the chemotherapy regimen and the extent of the disease.

Chemotherapy is tough on the body. There are a number of side effects which can include nausea (wanting to vomit or feeling queezy) and hair loss. Nausea is controllable with newer drugs such as Zofran and Kytril. Hair loss is another matter - many children come up with creative solutions including scarves, hats, and wigs. For kids who need hair pieces: the organization Locks of Love is the one to check out.

For Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that is resistant to chemotherapy, bone marrow or stem cell transplantation may be an option. More information is found on the Childhood Lymphoma Transplant Resource Page.

Clinical trials are used to gauge therapy effectiveness and for those who wish to help researchers test new therapies. The US National Cancer Institute recommends all children be generally considered for clinical trials and be cared for by a multidisciplinary team of pediatric oncologists.

For specific types of treatment given the type of NHL and the stage, see the US National Cancer Institute (NCI) data sheets listed under the Childhood Lymphoma: Resources Page.

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