Making the Decision to Have Radiation Treatment for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

In some cases, radiation is useful for the treatment of lymphoma. Your doctor may recommend it for these reasons.

  • You have lymphoma in a specific body part, such as your stomach, brain, or skin. Radiation is particularly useful when lymphoma is isolated to one area in your body.

  • You have indolent lymphoma that is localized to 1 or 2 lymph node groups on the same side of your abdomen. Your doctor may direct radiation to the area where the lymphoma is located, to nearby lymph nodes, or to all of the lymph system. Radiation is particularly useful when lymphoma is isolated to one area in your body.

  • You are having pain or other symptoms due to growth of lymphoma in a specific place. Radiation can shrink a tumor pressing on the spinal cord, for instance. This may be considered a palliative treatment. That means it is treatment that helps control pain and improve quality of life. But it doesn’t cure the lymphoma.

  • You have decided to have a stem cell transplant. This may mean you need radiation. Radiation kills not only lymphoma cells, but also normal bone marrow cells. For a stem cell transplant, you may need total body irradiation (TBI). This type of treatment distributes radiation in equal doses to all parts of your body. It can reach lymphoma cells in several parts of your body. Another option is to use high-dose chemotherapy instead of the radiation. Your doctor will talk with you about these options.

  • You have an aggressive, fast-growing type of lymphoma. Your doctor may treat you with chemotherapy alone. You may also have immunotherapy, such as the drug Rituxan (rituximab). Or you may have chemotherapy as well as radiation, especially if your lymphoma is in just one area of your body. Or you may have all 3 types of treatment.

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