Steroid therapy for lymphoma

You may be given steroids alongside chemotherapy to treat lymphoma. They may help you to feel better and feel less sick during chemotherapy.

What are steroids?

Steroids are substances that are naturally produced in the body. They help to control many of the different ways our bodies work. Steroids can also be made in a laboratory as drugs for use in cancer treatment.

Steroids are often given with chemotherapy to help treat lymphoma. They may also help you feel better during chemotherapy. The steroids most commonly used to treat lymphoma are called prednisolone and dexamethasone. Find out more information about steroids.

Side effects of steroids

You might take steroids for a few days during each cycle of chemotherapy for lymphoma.

Possible side effects of steroids include:

  • indigestion
  • increased appetite and weight gain
  • swollen ankles
  • having more energy or feeling restless
  • changes in your mood
  • difficulty sleeping
  • skin rash or acne
  • increased sugar levels in the blood.

What to do if you have side effects

Tell your doctor if you have any side effects that are causing you trouble.

If you have indigestion, it can help to take steroids with food. Your doctor may also prescribe drugs to prevent indigestion. Tell your doctor if you have stomach pains while taking steroids.

If you have difficulty sleeping, it may help to take steroids in the morning.

Sometimes, steroids cause a temporary increase in your blood sugar level. You may have regular blood or urine tests to check this. During treatment, tell your doctor if you get very thirsty or if you are passing urine (peeing) more than usual. If you have diabetes, tell your doctor before you start taking steroids.

Side effects usually get better when you finish taking steroids. But you may feel tired, have aches and pains, or have low moods for 2 to 3 days after you stop taking them. This is because your body is adjusting to the change in steroid levels.

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.