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Chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin lymphoma


Chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Chemotherapy may be used to fight all forms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, including aggressive and non-aggressive forms, and may also be used to help prevent the disease from recurring. Chemotherapy for NHL often consists of giving several drugs together in a set regimen. A common form used specifically to treat diffuse large B-cell lymphoma is CHOP chemotherapy, which is a combination of four chemotherapy drugs.

Depending on the regimen, chemotherapy may be administered in pill form, as an injection, or intravenously. You may receive chemotherapy alone, or in combination with other NHL treatments, such as targeted therapy and radiation therapy.

Potential side effects of chemotherapy for NHL

While chemotherapy destroys rapidly dividing cancer cells, it can also affect normal fast-growing cells, such as those in the hair, mouth, GI tract and bone marrow. Chemotherapy for NHL may also temporarily interfere with the ability of the bone marrow to produce adequate numbers of blood cells, resulting in various side effects.

Depending on the types of drugs administered and your individual response, some common side effects of chemotherapy for NHL include:

  • Cardiotoxicity (heart muscle damage)
  • Anemia (low red blood cell count)
  • Neutropenia (low white blood cell count)
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Taste changes
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Neuropathy (pain, numbness or tingling in the hands and feet)
  • Mouth sores
  • Hair loss
  • Sexual dysfunction

Helping you manage chemotherapy-related side effects

We will use a combination of approaches to prevent or manage chemotherapy-related side effects throughout your NHL treatment. For example, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics as a preventive measure before you begin treatment.

Since chemotherapy can temporarily lower your blood cell counts, we’ll do routine blood tests to check the levels of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. If your counts are low, we may modify your treatment or use certain drugs to help stimulate blood cell production. You may also be given a transfusion to restore your counts to a normal level.

Additionally, therapies like nutrition therapy, naturopathic medicine, pain management and oncology rehabilitation can all help to reduce chemotherapy-related side effects and keep you strong so you can continue to participate in the activities you enjoy most. Mind-body medicine and spiritual support can improve your emotional well-being so you feel better throughout treatment.

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs designed to slow or stop the growth of rapidly dividing cancer cells in the body. It may be used:

  • As a primary treatment to destroy cancer cells
  • Before another treatment to shrink a tumor
  • After another treatment to destroy any remaining cancer cells
  • To relieve symptoms of advanced cancer

At Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), our medical oncologists are experienced in delivering targeted, individualized chemotherapy options while also proactively managing side effects.

Chemotherapy delivery methods

Some chemotherapy delivery methods include:

  • Orally (by mouth as a pill or liquid)
  • Intravenously (by infusion into a vein)  
  • Topically (as a cream on the skin)
  • Injection
  • Direct placement (via a lumbar puncture or device placed under the scalp)

When chemotherapy drugs travel through the bloodstream to reach cells throughout the body, it is called systemic chemotherapy. When chemotherapy drugs are directed to a specific area of the body, it is called regional chemotherapy.

Experienced care team

For most of our patients, a medical oncologist serves as their primary doctor. Our medical oncologists specialize in diagnosing cancer and delivering chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy and/or hormone therapy. They will work closely with you and the rest of your care team to discuss chemotherapy options based on your individual needs.

Individualized treatment approach

When you arrive at the hospital, your medical oncologist will review your medical history and perform a full diagnostic evaluation, then present you with a treatment plan based on your specific diagnosis.

Chemotherapy is an important part of treatment for many of our patients. Our physicians use leading treatment protocols and practice evidence-based medicine. In some cases, we may use innovative delivery methods to treat certain types of cancer.

We strive to find the right chemotherapy drug, or combination of drugs, for each person. We may use tests, such as tumor molecular profiling, to identify an appropriate drug combination for your disease and help you avoid unnecessary toxicity.

If chemotherapy is part of your treatment plan, your medical oncologist will coordinate your dosage and schedule. You may receive chemotherapy alone, or in combination with other treatment modalities like targeted therapies, surgery and/or radiation therapy.

Throughout your treatment, your medical oncologist will monitor the effectiveness of your chemotherapy regimen and modify your treatment plan accordingly.

Managing chemotherapy side effects

While chemotherapy targets cancer cells, it can also damage healthy cells and cause unpleasant side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, hair loss, fatigue and mouth sores. Your dedicated care team will provide a variety of supportive care services to help you prevent or manage side effects throughout your chemotherapy treatment.