The landscape of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma treatment is promising.

A recent diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can be overwhelming no matter what stage you’re in. Although you may feel uncertain about your future, it’s essential to remember that medical science has made considerable strides in understanding and treating this disease.

Equipped with knowledge and supported by dedicated healthcare professionals, living with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can seem much more manageable than you may have initially thought.

There are various standardized treatment methods that have excellent success rates. Working with an oncologist who you feel comfortable with is a good first step toward developing a suitable and personalized treatment plan.

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma refers to a group of more than 85 different blood cancers that affect a type of white blood cells called lymphocytes. These cells further divide mainly into B cells and T cells, and their role is to defend against harmful pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and other foreign agents.

Although there are many variations of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, three particular types are the most common in the United States:

Under usual circumstances, healthy B cells and T cells mature, produce in your bone marrow, and are later released into your blood. The core issue in non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma involves the overproduction of lymphocytes that are often defective and may eventually clump together.

Although specific treatment protocols vary based on the type of lymphoma, treatment may generally involve any of the following:

Typically, you’ll have a discussion with your oncologist about the best approach. The specific treatment may often involve a combination of these approaches but depends on various factors such as your cancer type, cancer stage, and symptoms.

What is the most common treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma?

The most common treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy, also known as chemoimmunotherapy.

Chemotherapy involves the oral or intravenous (IV) administration of drugs that are toxic to your cells. These may be given in specific protocols, such as the well-known R-CHOP protocol, which is an acronym for five drugs used for chemotherapy. These drugs include:

Immunotherapy involves the use of substances that are thought to help your immune system destroy cancer cells. There are various types of immunotherapies, such as monoclonal antibody drugs or the newer CAR-T therapy, which uses your body’s own immune cells to destroy cancer cells.

Many chemoimmunotherapy protocols are administered in cycles. This means that you’ll receive treatment for a specific period of time before a rest period with no treatment.

In the CHOP protocol, there are 5 days of treatment followed by 3 weeks of rest. The first day includes IV delivery of each drug, which takes several hours. The next 4 days consist of daily prednisolone tablets taken orally. It’s common to have 6–8 cycles in total before completing this protocol.

There are numerous types of chemotherapy protocols, and R-CHOP is only one type. Chemotherapy isn’t always used and is sometimes replaced with monoclonal antibodies such as Gazyva.

Additionally, lymphoma in stages 1 and 2 may exclusively begin with radiation therapy. If you have no signs or symptoms, your oncologist will suggest a “watchful waiting” approach (active surveillance).

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma treatment is aggressive and typically produces various side effects that may include any of the following:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fever
  • infections
  • heart difficulties
  • fatigue
  • infertility
  • weight changes
  • hair loss
  • bruising
  • bleeding gums or nose bleeds
  • breathlessness
  • bladder inflammation
  • numbness of extremities
  • constipation

The specific side effects that you experience will vary depending on which treatments you receive and your individual tolerance.

The estimated 5-year relative survival rate of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is about 74%. This rate compares the ratio of people with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma who died to the ratio of people without cancer who died in the span of 5 years.

The relative survival rate depends on a number of factors, especially the cancer stage at the time of diagnosis. Later stages typically have poorer relative survival rates but not by a huge amount. If you receive a diagnosis in stage 1, your survival rate would be approximately 86% compared with 64% in stage 4.

Generally, these are high survival statistics, and they’ve been steadily increasing over the years. A more accurate survival rate is often calculated using the following factors:

  • age
  • stage
  • symptoms and overall function
  • level of an enzyme called LDH
  • extent of lymph node involvement

Can you be fully cured of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma?

While it can’t be said for certain that treatment can cure non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, it’s not uncommon to experience remission for months or years following treatment.

If there don’t seem to be any markers indicating that the cancer is still active after treatment, it can be considered in remission. You’ll follow up with your oncologist on a regular basis to ensure that there are no signs of the cancer’s return.

While there are many types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, they all share common treatment strategies that focus on destroying cancer cells and restoring health.

Advances in medical science have provided a variety of treatment options, from chemotherapy and immunotherapy combinations to innovative CAR-T therapies. With a substantial survival rate, especially when it’s diagnosed early, your chances of experiencing periods of remission after treatment are high.

Continuous research and patient-centric care approaches have significantly contributed to the positive trajectory of survival rates and quality of life for people with a diagnosis of this condition. Many more lymphoma treatments are expected on the horizon, making the future more encouraging.