Radiotherapy for non-Hodgkin lymphoma

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

Radiotherapy is given in the hospital radiotherapy department, usually as daily sessions from Monday to Friday, with a rest 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 three weeks.

We have more information about having radiotherapy.

When is radiotherapy used?

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

For some people with low-grade NHL in just one group of lymph nodes, radiotherapy may be the only treatment needed. Sometimes radiotherapy is used after chemotherapy to treat low-grade or high-grade NHL.

If low-grade NHL returns in just one area of the body, radiotherapy may be used instead of chemotherapy.

Planning your radiotherapy

Radiotherapy has to be carefully planned to make sure it’s as effective as possible. Treatment is planned by a cancer specialist (clinical or radiation oncologist). This may take a few visits.

On your first visit to the radiotherapy department, you will be asked to have a CT scan or lie under a machine called a simulator, which takes x-rays of the area to be treated.

You may need some small marks made on your skin to help the radiographer (who gives you your treatment) position you accurately. These marks will show where the rays will be directed. They must stay visible throughout your treatment, and permanent marks (like tiny tattoos) are usually used. These are extremely small, and will only be done with your permission. It may be a little uncomfortable while they are done.

If you are having radiotherapy to your neck, you may need to wear a mask during treatment ses-sions. This is made for you before you have treatment.

We have more information about radiotherapy masks.

Radiotherapy explained

Consultant Clinical Oncologist Vincent Khoo describes external beam radiotherapy, how it works, and what it involves.

Information about our videos

Radiotherapy explained

Consultant Clinical Oncologist Vincent Khoo describes external beam radiotherapy, how it works, and what it involves.

Information about our videos

Treatment sessions

At the beginning of each session of radiotherapy, the radiographer will position you carefully on the couch and make sure you are comfortable. During your treatment you will be alone in the room, but you can talk to the radiographer who will watch you from the next room.

Radiotherapy is not painful, but you will have to lie still for a few minutes during the treatment.

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Possible side effects

Radiotherapy often causes tiredness. Other side effects will depend on the part of your body being treated.

Who might I meet?

You will meet many different people before, during and after radiotherapy treatment.