General Treatment for Lymphoma

The treatment of lymphoma depends on many factors, the most important of which are the type of disease, its stage, its site (location), whether the lymphoma is slow- or fast-growing, and the age and general health of the individual. Other factors that may enter into the treatment plan include symptoms, whether surgery was used in staging the disease, and pregnancy.

Fortunately, many advances have been made in the treatment of both Hodgkin's disease (HD) and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) in recent years. Over 75% of newly diagnosed HD patients are cured by the latest methods of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and the survival statistics for NHL patients are improving.

Treatment plans for children vary according to the age, physical development, and sexual maturity of the individual child.

Treatment Options

In general, there are five options available for the treatment of adult lymphoma:

  1. Chemotherapy—to kill lymphoma cells using strong anticancer drugs
  2. Radiation therapy—to kill lymphoma cells by exposure to high-energy radiation
  3. Stem cell transplantation (SCT)—to enable treatment with high doses of chemotherapy and radiation therapy
  4. Biological therapies—that use naturally occurring substances of the immune system to stop lymphoma progression
  5. Surgery—to remove confined, lymphomas outside the lymph nodes (extranodal) in organs such as the thyroid or stomach

Oncologists (cancer specialists) administer these treatments in a variety of combinations. Each method has its advantages and drawbacks. It usually is worthwhile to get a second opinion about treatment before entering into a specific program. In some instances, a second opinion may be required by the patient's insurance company. For example, stem cell transplantation (SCT) is very costly (more than $100,000) and entails a long stay in the hospital. Some insurance companies still consider this to be an "experimental" procedure and will not pay for SCT-related expenses.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 15 Aug 1999

Last Modified: 23 May 2011