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Radiation Therapy for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
by Jondavid Pollock, MD, PhD
Radiation therapy uses high energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells. For early stage non-Hodgkin lymphomas, radiation therapy is the first line of treatment. Advanced stages are treated in combination with chemotherapy. Radiation therapy may be used to:
A radiation oncologist will customize the treatment dose for individual needs. The goal is to try and kill as much cancer while minimizing harm to healthy tissue.
There are different types of radiation therapy, but external beam radiation is used to treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
External Beam Radiation
In external beam radiation therapy, radiation is produced by a machine positioned outside the body. Short bursts of x-rays are directed at the tumor site. The radiation specialist will direct the radiation beam to affect as much of the tumor as possible. External beam radiation only takes a few minutes and the total treatment time can last 5-8 weeks, depending on the total dose required. In most cases, radiation is given 5 days a week. If needed, radiation therapy can be repeated in the same or different area after the initial course is completed.
Side Effects and Management
Complications of radiation therapy depend on where it is directed, and may include:
A variety of treatments are available to help manage side effects of radiation therapy. Sometimes adjustments to treatment doses may also be possible. The earlier side effects are addressed, the more likely they will be controlled with a minimum of discomfort.
Adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma treatment (PDQ)—patient version. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/lymphoma/patient/adult-nhl-treatment-pdq. Updated December 8, 2017. Accessed March 30, 2018.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated January 9, 2018. Accessed March 30, 2018.
Non-Hodgkin lymphomas. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hematology-and-oncology/lymphomas/non-hodgkin-lymphomas. Updated October 2012. Accessed March 30, 2018.
Radiation therapy. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society website. Available at:
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Accessed March 30, 2018.
Radiation therapy for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/non-hodgkin-lymphoma/treating/radiation-therapy.html. Updated May 31, 2016. Accessed March 30, 2018.
Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 4/4/2016
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