Chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Chemotherapy is often used to treat lymphoma. It uses anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy lymphoma cells. Cytotoxic means the drugs are toxic to cells.

Most people have chemotherapy as an outpatient. Usually you have a combination of two or more chemotherapy drugs. The drugs are usually given as liquids into a vein (intravenously) or as tablets.

You have the chemotherapy drugs over one or a few days. Then you have a break of a few weeks without chemotherapy. The treatment and break is called a cycle of treatment. The break allows your body to recover from any side effects before you start the next cycle.

Your whole course of chemotherapy treatment may last several months. During this time, you have regular check-ups at the hospital. You usually have a scan before starting chemotherapy and then again at the end. You may also have a scan part of the way through your course of treatment. These scans help check how the treatment has worked in shrinking the lymphoma.

Chemotherapy drugs for non-Hodgkin lymphoma

There are several chemotherapy treatments that work well for NHL. The most commonly used treatments include the following:

  • CHOP – this is a combination of the chemotherapy drugs cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin (hydroxydaunorubicin) and vincristine (Oncovin®) given into a vein, and steroid tablets called prednisolone.
  • CVP – this is a combination of the chemotherapy drugs cyclophosphamide and vincristine given into a vein, and prednisolone tablets. Sometimes a drug called gemcitabine is added to CVP, to make a treatment combination called GCVP.
  • Bendamustine –this is a chemotherapy drug given into a vein.
  • Chlorambucil – this is a chemotherapy drug taken as tablets.
  • Fludarabine – this is a chemotherapy drug often given in combination with other drugs. It can be given into a vein or taken as tablets.

Chemotherapy may be given in combination with a targeted therapy. The most commonly used targeted therapy is a monoclonal antibody called rituximab. This is often used to treat B-cell lymphomas. When chemotherapy and rituximab are given together, the letter R is added to the treatment name, for example R-CHOP or R-CVP. The combination of chemotherapy and rituximab is sometimes called chemoimmunotherapy.

We have more information about different chemotherapy drugs and their side effects.

Chemotherapy

This video provides a brief overview of chemotherapy treatment, how it can be given, how it works and possible side effects.

About our cancer information videos

Chemotherapy

This video provides a brief overview of chemotherapy treatment, how it can be given, how it works and possible side effects.

About our cancer information videos

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Your feelings

You may experience difficult feelings while having chemotherapy treatment. Talking these over can be helpful.