Learning as much as you can about non-Hodgkin lymphoma helps you play an active role in your treatment. This is an important part of successfully treating and managing your condition.
The overall 5-year survival rate for people with non-Hodgkin lymphoma is 73 percent.1 That means almost 75 percent of people with this cancer live for 5 years or more after being diagnosed. However, there are several forms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and a lot depends on the type you may have.
Treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma depends on things like:
- The type and location of non-Hodgkin lymphoma
- What stage it’s in
- The chance that a type of treatment will work
- Your age and general health
- Your feelings about treatment options
You and your cancer care team will talk about the treatment plan that’s best for you.
Treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma often includes chemotherapy (medications that fight cancer).
Chemotherapy may need to be given intravenously (IV or into a vein). Or it may come in an oral form (taken by mouth). You might take a few different chemotherapies at the same time. The goal is for the medication to go through the body to find and fight any cancer cells. Chemotherapy is given in cycles. This means that you will receive chemotherapy for a certain period of time, take a break for a certain period of time and then go back on. The cycles may go on for weeks or months.
Chemotherapy can have many side effects. Side effects may be different for each person, depending on the type of chemotherapy they get and how they tolerate it. Some side effects may include:
- Bruising or bleeding easily
- Feeling sick to your stomach and throwing up (nausea and vomiting)
- Feeling very tired (fatigue)
- Getting infections
- Losing your hair
- Losing your appetite
- Sores in your mouth
Most of the time, side effects will go away after your treatment cycles are done. There are ways to help manage most chemotherapy side effects. Talk to your cancer care team about how you are feeling and what side effects that you have.
Sometimes chemotherapy is combined with other treatments like radiation or immunotherapy.
Radiation uses high-energy rays (like X-rays) to kill cancer cells. Radiation treatments usually mean going into a radiation center every day, Monday through Friday, for a certain number of weeks (usually three to five weeks) depending on what the doctor ordered.
Before you start radiation, your skin will be marked so the radiation is aimed just where it is needed. Radiation therapy usually works better when the lymphoma is only in one part of the body. The treatment only takes a few minutes, and you don’t feel anything during it. A lot of times, people still work, go to school or do their normal activities while they are getting radiation therapy. But, it’s important to keep in mind to do only what you can and not push yourself too much.
Radiation therapy may have side effects. The side effects that you get depend on which part of the body is getting the radiation. The most common side effects of radiation are:
- Feeling very tired (fatigue)
- Redness or blisters on the skin where the radiation goes in
Most side effects get better after treatment ends. Some side effects, however, may last a long time or may not show up until years later.
Other types of treatment include immunotherapy (or targeted therapy) medications and biologics (or biosimilars). These medications help the immune system fight the cancer cells by attacking non-Hodgkin lymphoma cells specifically. There are different types of targeted therapies that work in different ways to kill the cells. Each one can cause side effects. So, it’s important to talk to your cancer care team and learn what you can expect.
Stem cell transplants may be an option for non-Hodgkin lymphoma that doesn’t get better with chemotherapy, radiation or immunotherapy. It’s also an option if the cancer comes back after the treatments. Stem cell transplantation is complicated. It’s very important to talk to your cancer care team and understand the pros and cons.
With a stem cell transplant, doctors use very high doses of chemotherapy to kill the non-Hodgkin cells. High doses also kill the normal cells being made in the bone marrow. That can lead to serious complications like infection or bleeding until the bone marrow starts making the cells the body needs again.
We’re here to help.
Your CVS Specialty® CareTeam is always available to answer your questions. They can also help manage side effects and help you stay on track to get the most from your treatment. If you want to learn more about your condition or treatment, talk to your doctor or contact your CareTeam.