Can adult non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) be treated?

Yes, NHL is a very treatable disease and curable in many cases, particularly with aggressive NHL. Before treatment begins, it is necessary to know how far the cancer has advanced. This is called the stage of the disease. The stages begin with I (least severe) and go through IV (most severe). Stages of adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma may include “E” (meaning extranodal, or that cancer has spread beyond the lymph nodes) and “S” (meaning that cancer has been found in the spleen).

Because NHL is a blood and lymph system disease, most patients are at an advanced stage at diagnosis.

How is adult non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) treated?

There are several types of treatments used to kill cancer cells or keep them from dividing:

  • Traditional systemic chemotherapy: This includes drugs taken either by mouth or injected into a vein, or less commonly into the cerebrospinal fluid.
  • Targeted systemic anti-cancer medications: These include treatments such as monoclonal antibodies that bind to targets on the surface of lymphocytes or small molecules designed to block pathways that make lymphoma cells grow but are not critical to normal cells.
  • Biologic therapy (also called biotherapy or immunotherapy): This involves using substances or cells made by the patient’s own immune system or in a laboratory to help boost the body’s natural defenses. The best example of this is chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cells.
  • Radiation therapy: This type of treatment includes X-rays or other types of radiation.
  • Clinical trials of new treatments: Sometimes, this allows access to therapies that are not yet approved for more widespread use.

Some patients with indolent lymphoma that is not causing problems do not need treatment. This is called watchful waiting or active monitoring. This is the close monitoring of the patient without giving any treatment until symptoms appear or change.

There are also a number of new treatments being developed in clinical trials. A clinical trial might be preferred if standard treatments do not work or are too toxic. Ask the doctor about clinical trials.

Can non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) spread to other organs?

Yes, NHL can spread (metastasize) can spread outside of the lymph nodes. Local disease stays in one lymph node. If the disease goes outside of that one lymph node, it is called extranodal. It can go almost anywhere in the body, including:

  • Other nodes
  • Bone marrow
  • Liver
  • Spleen
  • Stomach and intestines
  • Skin
  • Lungs
  • Testicles
  • The central nervous system, like the brain
  • Eyes
  • Sinuses

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