Chemotherapy is often recommended for treating lymphoma for several important reasons. First, most types of lymphoma cells respond well to and can be destroyed by chemotherapy drugs. Additionally, because lymphoma develops in blood cells and circulates in the bloodstream to areas throughout the body, the condition is most effectively treated systemically. Even when the lymphoma appears to be confined to one area of the body, treatments like surgery and radiation therapy can leave some cancerous cells behind, simply due to the nature of the condition. As a systemic treatment, chemotherapy can reach and destroy cancerous cells in virtually every area of the body.
Chemotherapy can be very effective for treating lymphoma because it can stop cancerous cells from dividing and creating new abnormal cells. It can also trigger lymphoma cells to die prematurely (all cells in the body, including cancerous cells, have limited lifespans).
There are many different chemotherapy drugs that can be used for treating Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The most appropriate drug or drug combination for a patient is determined based on several factors, including:
- The type of lymphoma
- Whether the lymphoma is fast growing (high grade) or slow growing (low grade)
- The affected areas of the body
- The symptoms the patient is experiencing
- The patient’s overall health condition
In Moffitt Cancer Center’s Malignant Hematology Program, our multispecialty team of experts collaboratively develops a highly individualized treatment plan for each patient. Many patients receive chemotherapy as an integral component of their treatment for lymphoma. Our experienced and compassionate nurses and other medical professionals administer chemotherapy at all Moffitt locations using advanced techniques and state-of-the-art equipment. And, through ongoing research studies, we are continuing to learn more about how to prevent and treat lymphoma, always with a focus on improving patient outcomes and quality of life.
Possible side effects of chemotherapy
Chemotherapy can cause side effects that vary depending on the type and dosage of chemotherapy drugs used, as well as the length of treatment. Some common side effects include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Hair loss
- Mouth sores
- Decreased appetite
Some other side effects that can occur include fatigue and shortness of breath, an increased risk of infection and a higher susceptibility to bleeding or bruising following minor injuries. Additionally, there are side effects that are specific to certain chemotherapy drugs.
Moffitt's lymphoma treatment team has ways to help patients manage side effects, if they are experienced. For instance, a medical oncologist may adjust dosage or drug type, and there are medications that can prevent or reduce nausea and vomiting.