Because there are so many forms of lymphoma and because they may affect so many different lymph nodes, organs, and tissues, potential complications are numerous. Lymphoma is a disorder affecting important components of the immune system, so patients’ immunity is likely to be weakened, making them more susceptible to infections. Additionally, modern advances in chemotherapy and other forms of treatment mean that more patients are living longer. Unfortunately, one of the long-term complications of chemotherapy may include damage to tissues of the cardiovascular system, increasing survivors’ chances of eventually developing heart disease.
Some treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy, have also been linked to a higher risk of later developing other forms of cancer. These complications of treatment may affect survivors of both Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). The most common secondary malignancies (new cancers that develop after successful treatment) include lung cancer, leukemia, breast cancer, and colon cancer.
Surprisingly, some studies have shown that survivors of chemotherapy for NHL, who did not also receive radiation treatment, experienced a decreased risk of developing breast cancer (among women) or prostate cancer (among men), compared to their healthy peers.
Other complications may be related to the disease itself. If tumors form in the chest, for example, patients may experience pain, coughing or difficulty breathing. Tumors in the brain or spinal cord may affect personality and the ability to think clearly, while tumors in the digestive tract, for example, may affect appetite and bowel function.