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.
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.
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.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003126-pdf.pdf. Accessed April 4, 2016.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116014/Non-Hodgkin-lymphoma-NHL. Updated May 5, 2016. Accesses October 6, 2016.
Non-Hodgkin lymphomas. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hematology-and-oncology/lymphomas/non-hodgkin-lymphomas. Updated October 2012. Accessed April 4, 2016.
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
website. Available at:
http://www.lls.org/lymphoma/non-hodgkin-lymphoma/treatment/radiation-therapy. Accessed April 4, 2016.
Treatment option overview. National Cancer Institute
website. Available at:
Updated March 3, 2016. Accessed April 4, 2016.
Last reviewed March 2015 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
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