Chemotherapy uses drugs that enter the bloodstream and travel through the body to kill cancer cells. It also destroys healthy cells, which results in side effects. People with non-Hodgkins lymphoma are sometimes given a combination of drugs in cycles. Chemotherapy may be given either alone or along with radiation therapy . When given alone, it is given in a higher dose designed to kill cancer cells. When given along with radiation therapy, it is delivered at a lower dose and is designed to make the cancer more sensitive to the radiation.

There is a wide variety of drugs used to treat non-Hodgkins lymphoma. These may be used singly or in combination. They will be different depending on the stage and type of lymphoma.

Chemotherapy is usually given by vein, but some forms can be given by mouth. Your medical oncologist will tell you how many cycles or courses of chemotherapy are best for you. Usually, there are between 4-6 cycles of chemotherapy given when the chemotherapy is delivered on its own. There are up to 10 cycles of chemotherapy when the drugs are given along with radiation therapy.

The side effects and amount of time required in the doctor’s office depend on the type of chemotherapy you receive, as well as how many cycles you receive and how often. The most common chemotherapy-associated side effects are:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Esophagitis or irritation of the swallowing tube
  • When chemotherapy is given at a lower dose, as when it is given along with radiation, these side effects are less common. However, most people still feel very fatigued.

    Special Considerations

    Infertility and premature menopause may occur with some of the drugs used to treat non-Hodgkins lymphoma. If fertility is a concern, discuss the possibility of storing sperm or eggs before starting therapy.