• Radiation Therapy for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

    Radiation therapy uses high energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells. For early stage non-Hodgkin lymphomas, radiation therapy is the first line of treatment. Advanced stages are treated in combination with chemotherapy. Radiation therapy may be used to:
    • Shrink tumors in the neck, chest, and/or armpits
    • Localized or large tumors that are confined to one area
    • Relieve symptoms associated with metastatic lymphoma
    A radiation oncologist will customize the treatment dose for individual needs. The goal is to try and kill as much cancer while minimizing harm to healthy tissue.
    There are different types of radiation therapy, but external beam radiation is used to treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

    External Beam Radiation

    In external beam radiation therapy, radiation is produced by a machine positioned outside the body. Short bursts of x-rays are directed at the tumor site. The radiation specialist will direct the radiation beam to affect as much of the tumor as possible. External beam radiation only takes a few minutes and the total treatment time can last 5-8 weeks, depending on the total dose required. In most cases, radiation is given 5 days a week. If needed, radiation therapy can be repeated in the same or different area after the initial course is completed.
    Radiation of a Tumor
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

    Side Effects and Management

    Complications of radiation therapy depend on where it is directed, and may include:
      Chest complications:
      • Cough
      • Shortness of breath
      • Chest pains
      • Problems with swallowing and eating
      • Thyroid problems
      • Heart and lung problems
      Abdominal and pelvic complications:
      • Bladder irritation—may cause blood in the urine, or pain or burning during urination
      • Anal or rectal irritation—may cause blood in the stool, pain during bowel movements, or stool leakage
      • Vaginal dryness—may cause discomfort during intercourse
      • Erectile dysfunction
      • Infertility—talk to your doctor about options to preserve fertility before starting treatment
      General complications:
      • Dry, irritated skin
      • Reduced blood cell counts—increases the risk of infection and blood clotting time, and causes anemia-related fatigue
      • Nausea or vomiting
      • Diarrhea
    A variety of treatments are available to help manage side effects of radiation therapy. Sometimes adjustments to treatment doses may also be possible. The earlier side effects are addressed, the more likely they will be controlled with a minimum of discomfort.


    Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003126-pdf.pdf. Accessed April 4, 2016.

    Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116014/Non-Hodgkin-lymphoma-NHL. Updated May 5, 2016. Accesses October 6, 2016.

    Non-Hodgkin lymphomas. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hematology-and-oncology/lymphomas/non-hodgkin-lymphomas. Updated October 2012. Accessed April 4, 2016.

    Radiation therapy. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society website. Available at: http://www.lls.org/lymphoma/non-hodgkin-lymphoma/treatment/radiation-therapy. Accessed April 4, 2016.

    Treatment option overview. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/types/lymphoma/patient/adult-nhl-treatment-pdq#section/%5F190. Updated March 3, 2016. Accessed April 4, 2016.

    Revision Information

    • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD
    • Review Date: 03/2017
    • Update Date: 04/04/2016
  • LiveWell personal health survey

    How healthy are you really? Find out – free.Learn more

    It's time to stop guessing. If you want to make some changes but just aren't sure how, the free personal health survey from LiveWell is a great place to start.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease and prevent heart attacks. HeartSHAPE® is a painless, non-invasive test that checks pictures of your heart for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.