Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a type of cancer that requires aggressive treatments. Learn about the long-term side effects of these treatments.

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) is a type of cancer that develops in the lymph system. Because the lymph system is part of your immune system, cancer cells that spread through this area can have serious consequences.

But current treatments are highly effective for addressing this kind of cancer, with about 74% of people with NHL surviving 5 years or more after treatment.

This article will explore some of the possible side effects that you may experience after NHL treatment and what you can discuss with a healthcare team to treat these issues.

The main strategy for most cancer treatments is to use medications or therapies that destroy cancer cells.

Few of these treatments can tell the difference between cancer cells and healthy cells in the body. For this reason, many cancer treatments have side effects that are caused by the destruction of healthy cells and tissues.

Treatments for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) are no exception.

Treatments are effective at helping people overcome this form of cancer, but it can take months or even years for your body to get back to normal after treatments such as chemotherapy.

In addition to recovering from the initial treatments, there are side effects that could develop after your initial disease and recovery.

In some cases, cancer treatment can cause difficulties related to cellular damage many years after the treatment. It’s also possible to develop a recurrence of your original cancer. Recurrence may depend on the stage of NHL you experience.

Several therapies may be used to treat NHL. These therapies may include:

What does R-CHOP mean?

“R-CHOP” is an abbreviation for a combination of chemotherapy medications that are often used to treat NHL. Each medication in this group works a little differently, but they all have the same goal of destroying cancer cells or suppressing cancer activity.

The R-CHOP protocol includes:

Learn more about R-CHOP therapy.

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Any medication or treatment can have side effects, but chemotherapy, radiation, and stem cell transplantation have a particularly high risk of long-term and late side effects.

Long-term side effects that appear right after treatment and can last for some time include conditions like fatigue, weakness, anemia, and reproductive changes.

Late effects are side effects that appear sometime after treatment and may be permanent. Examples of the late effects of NHL treatment include:

Aside from the long-term and late side effects, there are immediate but short-lived side effects that are common with NHL treatment. The effects can include conditions such as hair loss, skin rashes, and increased sensitivity to infections.

These side effects usually resolve in the weeks to months after the treatment ends.

Chemotherapy is a group of medications made up of powerful chemicals that can destroy cancer cells, but they may also weaken the immune system and damage other normal cells in the body.

Going through chemotherapy treatment can be difficult, with immediate side effects like fatigue, nausea, weight loss, hair loss, and more.

A healthcare team may be able to offer treatments that reduce the burden of these side effects, such as medications for nausea, but many of these side effects will have to be tolerated until your cancer treatments end.

If you have side effects that don’t go away or new side effects that appear long after your chemotherapy treatment ends, talk with the healthcare team. These new or ongoing symptoms can be an indication of late effects of treatment, recurrence of your cancer, or the development of a new or secondary cancer.

Even after successful treatment, a healthcare team will make a plan to track your recovery and watch out for a recurrence or development of secondary cancers.

Because most recurrent lymphomas appear within 2 years of initial treatment, you may have different scans and tests scheduled to check your bloodwork and symptoms during this time.

In addition to blood samples for testing, you or a healthcare team may have to schedule tests such as CT or PET scans and physical examinations to look for any new cancer activity.

Symptoms that can appear in NHL and may develop with a recurrence include:

  • chills
  • weight loss
  • fatigue
  • abdominal swelling
  • frequent infections
  • easy bruising
  • shortness of breath
  • fever
  • night sweats

NHL is a blood-based cancer that affects the lymph system and is commonly treated with a combination of chemotherapy medications and radiation. The outlook for people with NHL is good in many cases.

Treatments and medications used to address NHL work well but also come with side effects. Some of these side effects resolve after treatment, but others can appear much later — even years after recovery.

Even with successful treatment, survivors of NHL will continue to work with a healthcare team to manage the long-term effects of treatment and watch for any recurrence or secondary cancers.