What is radiotherapy?

Radiotherapy uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells, while doing as little harm as possible to normal cells. It only treats the area of the body that the radiotherapy is aimed at.

Radiotherapy can be used to treat groups of lymph nodes that are affected by lymphoma.

Having radiotherapy treatment

Radiotherapy is usually given as a number of short, daily treatments in a hospital radiotherapy department.

You usually have radiotherapy as an outpatient from Monday to Friday, with a break at the weekend.

The length of your treatment will depend on the type and stage of the lymphoma. But it is normally no more than 3 weeks.

We have more information about having radiotherapy and how it is planned.

When is radiotherapy used to treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma?

Radiotherapy may be given:

When is radiotherapy used to treat Hodgkin lymphoma?

Radiotherapy may be given:

Side effects of radiotherapy for lymphoma

Radiotherapy can cause side effects in the area of your body that is being treated. You may also have some general side effects, such as feeling tired. After treatment finishes, it may be 1 to 2 weeks before side effects start getting better. After this, most side effects usually slowly go away.

Your cancer doctor, specialist nurse or radiographer will tell you what to expect. They will give you advice on what you can do to manage side effects. If you have any new side effects or if side effects get worse, tell them straight away.

Radiotherapy can have long-term side effects or late effects. These are rare and will vary depending on the part of the body treated. Your cancer doctor can tell you more.

Getting support

Macmillan is here to support you. If you would like to talk, you can:

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our lymphoma information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at cancerinformationteam@macmillan.org.uk

    National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Blood and bone marrow cancers. NICE Pathways. Last accessed 3 December 2020.

    Hodgkin lymphoma: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up; European Society for Medical Oncology (2018).

    Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma: diagnosis and management; NICE Guideline (July 2016).

    Newly Diagnosed and Relapsed Follicular Lymphoma: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up; European Society for Medical Oncology (2020).

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Professor Rajnish Gupta, Macmillan Consultant Medical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.