Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can be a life-altering disease. There are also over 60 subtypes of this disease. However, there are also more non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma treatments available than ever before. In turn, it’s becoming even easier for those who have it to achieve remission.
Symptoms of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
With as many different types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma as there are, there are also many different symptoms, depending on the subtype. Here are some of the most common signs:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Unexpected weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Chest pressure or pain
- Easy bruising
- Night sweats
Stages of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
There are five main stages of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that doctors use to classify where the cancer is in the body and how it spreads. Here is a breakdown of each stage at a glance.
During this early stage, the lymphoma is only present in one lymph node area or an organ such as the tonsils or an individual lymph node. Otherwise, it may only be in one area of a single organ outside the lymphatic system.
There are two ways that non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can be marked as stage II.
Firstly, if the cancer is in two or more groups of lymph nodes on the same side of the diaphragm—the patch of muscle between your lungs and the rest of the abdomen. As one example, this might include lymph nodes in your armpit and neck, but nowhere else.
The other common diagnosis for this stage is that the lymphoma is in a group of lymph nodes and one other nearby organ. Otherwise, it may also impact other groups on the same side of the diaphragm.
In stage III non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the disease has spread further. In most cases, the lymphoma has spread both above and below the diaphragm. Otherwise, the lymphoma is also in lymph nodes above the diaphragm and has entered the spleen.
In this later stage of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the disease is widespread. It’s usually found in at least one organ outside the lymphatic system, such as in the bone marrow, liver, or lungs.
You may sometimes hear this term described in relation to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Bulky disease usually describes large tumors in the chest region. It’s usually associated with other stages of the disease but can exist at multiple stages.
Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Treatment Options
Your oncologist and cancer care team will discuss the specific type of treatment or combination of treatments they recommend for you. These are some of the most common and successful non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma treatments.
A standard treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, chemotherapy uses drugs with chemicals to kill fast-growing lymphoma cells.
The type of chemotherapy you receive—or if you receive it at all—depends on the subtype of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma you have. You may receive a single type of chemotherapy drug or a combination of different medicines. In most cases, your cancer care team will deliver chemotherapy either as a pill or an injection directly into one of your veins.
Radiation therapy, or radiotherapy, uses X-rays and other types of radiation to stop cancer cells from growing and multiplying. It’s a common treatment for early stages of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma because tumors respond well to radiation at these stages.
In most cases, oncologists treat non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma with external radiation. This uses a beam of high-energy radiation to target the spots where the tumors are, shrinking them or destroying them.
Receiving radiation therapy is painless, but it does come with side effects such as fatigue and darkening or blistering of the skin in the areas receiving radiation.
Targeted drug therapy uses medication that targets the proteins on abnormal cells to destroy them or stop them from growing. In some cases, they also boost your immune system so it can better attack the mutated lymphocyte cells.
Your oncologist will test your blood and determine the specific subtype of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma you have. That way, they can tell whether targeted therapy may be a good treatment option for you.
Immunotherapy uses medications that train and strengthen your immune system, allowing it to recognize and kill lymphoma cells more easily.
The way immunotherapy works is by changing the way hormones and proteins interact with certain cells in your body. While it can still have some notable side effects, immunotherapy is different from chemotherapy because it doesn’t kill every single type of fast-growing cell in your body.
Bone Marrow Transplant
Sometimes called a stem cell transplant, bone marrow transplants replace unhealthy bone marrow that’s producing lymphoma cells with healthy stem cells. From there, the transplanted cells grow healthy bone marrow.
It’s normal to receive high doses of chemotherapy or radiation therapy before a bone marrow transplant. The large doses destroy the lymphoma-producing bone marrow so the transplanted stem cells can grow in their place
You can use stem cells from a donor, or you may be able to use your stem cells from unaffected bone marrow in another part of your body.
Non-Hodkgin’s Lymphoma Treatments at CHC
With dozens of different subtypes, every case of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is unique. That’s why at the Cancer & Hematology Centers, we treat every patient and their cancer diagnosis as an individual case. We provide multiple types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma treatments, but we also offer cutting-edge clinical trials, including treatments that aren’t yet available to everyone and as solutions when there are not any other adequate treatments available.
Learn More About Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Treatments
Your oncology and lymphoma specialists are here to help you navigate your diagnosis and treatment with peace of mind. To learn more about our lymphoma treatment options, call 800-411-7999 today.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What Is the Difference Between Hodgkin’s Lymphoma vs. Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Treatment?
While the two diseases are very similar, the main difference between Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is the type of lymphocyte that’s affected.
Hodgkin’s lymphoma involves a specific type of white blood cells called Reed-Sternberg cells—they are up to five times larger than normal lymphocyte cells and are oddly shaped by comparison. If your doctor finds these cells in your blood sample, you may have Hodgkin’s lymphoma. If the Reed-Sternberg cells aren’t in your blood sample but you still have many of the same symptoms, you may have one of over 60 types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Treatments for both types of lymphoma can vary depending on the stage of the disease, age, and other health conditions you may have.
Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy are common treatments for both Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. However, people with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma may also be better candidates for surgery as a treatment and bone marrow transplants.
What Is the Best Treatment for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma?
The best treatments for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma depend on the type and subtype you have. For example, people with localized lymphoma may need radiation therapy to destroy the cancer cells.
Chemotherapy is the most successful type of treatment for people with widespread types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This is because it kills fast-growing cells, including cancer cells. Combined with targeted therapy, it can help patients achieve remission sooner.
How Long Is Treatment for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma?
Like the type of treatment itself, the treatment timeline for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can vary from case to case. Here is an average breakdown of how long each treatment normally takes as a baseline:
- Chemotherapy and/or steroid medicine: A few months.
- Radiation therapy: Several weeks.
- Targeted therapy/monoclonal antibodies: A few years after initial treatment.
What Is the Newest Treatment for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma?
Clinical researchers are constantly making strides in treating non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and its dozens of subtypes.
According to the National Cancer Institute, many are paying more attention to how patients respond to targeted therapy and immunotherapy. They are also working to identify gene changes in different types of lymphoma to find more cells that are good candidates for targeted therapy drugs.