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Treating Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma: What You Should Know

by Mae Ferguson

If you or a loved one have been recently diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, you may be understandably shocked and confused. Receiving a cancer diagnosis of any kind can be tough, but lymphomas can be particularly difficult to wrap your head around. One of your top questions and priorities will be the treatment options available for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Learn more about some of these options. Then, you can be better prepared to discuss your treatment plan with your doctor going forward. 

Chemotherapy and Radiation

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are two of the most well-known and commonly used cancer treatments available. They are also two of the treatments most often used as the first line of defense against non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. 

Chemotherapy is a drug therapy option. It is generally administered through an IV (though there are also oral chemotherapy drugs that patients take as well). The mixture of medications used for your chemotherapy cocktail will be unique to you and your specific cancer mutations and markers. Your doctors may need to tweak these medications throughout the course of your treatment if things change or the effectiveness is not where they would like it to be. 

Radiation therapy, on the other hand, is a targeted therapy in which radiation is sent to specific areas of the body (where the tumors are) to try to stop the growth of and shrink those tumors. This is also often an in-office therapy. It is painless at the time (though it can cause nausea and other side effects after the fact). There are also options in surgically implant radiation pellets into the body, though this is not necessarily common practice with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma as it has a tendency to spread throughout the body. 

Stem Cell Transplants

One of the things that make non-Hodgkin's lymphoma unique is that it originates in the white blood cells of the body. White blood cells are created in the bone marrow of the body. Therefore, the mutations in the cells are originating from inside of the bone marrow. Stem cell transplantation is an option that is designed to try to help with that underlying issue. 

This is always done in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiation. The idea is to suppress the activity and functionality of the bone marrow you have in your body already. Then, doctors will transplant in healthy stem cell tissue to try to essentially restart your bone marrow working properly. 

New Treatments in Clinical Trials

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and lymphoma in general are tricky cancers to treat. Because of this, there are usually new treatment protocols and medications being tested in clinical trials.

One such trial that occurred recently involved injecting a vaccine of sorts directly into tumors. The idea behind this was to transform the tumor into a center for the immune system to attack cancer cells. The vaccine draws in and activates immune cells in the body, teaching them which cells are cancerous and need to be destroyed.

This treatment, originally tested on lymphoma patients, shows a high success rate and will likely continue in clinical trials for the foreseeable future. This and other clinical trials can be options if you and your medical team find that other options are not having the positive effect they should be having in your cancer treatment. 

Now that you know some of the treatment options for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, you can feel more prepared to talk to your (or your family member's) medical team about treatment programs. Find more resources and information at sites such as