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Treatment decisions

Find out about how your doctor decides which treatment you need for non Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). And read about the types of treatment you might have. 

Deciding which treatment you need

A team of doctors and other professionals discuss the best treatment and care for you. They are called a multidisciplinary team (MDT). 

Your team usually includes:

  • a haematologist (a specialist in drug treatment for lymphoma)
  • a specialist cancer nurse (also called clinical nurse specialist)
  • a pathologist
  • a transplant specialist
  • a radiotherapy specialist (clinical oncologist)
  • a pharmacist, social worker, psychologist and counsellor

Your treatment depends on:

  • your type and grade of NHL
  • your stage of NHL
  • your general health
  • your age

Your doctor will discuss your treatment, its benefits and the possible side effects with you.

Treatment overview

The main types of treatment for NHL are:

  • chemotherapy
  • radiotherapy 
  • biological therapy

Other treatment types include:

  • surgery
  • stem cell transplant

Some people only have one type of treatment. Others need a combination of treatments.

Doctors have made a lot of progress in treating NHL in recent years. More progress is being made all the time. The number of people that can be cured keeps going up. It’s even possible for people with advanced non Hodgkin lymphoma to be cured.

Treatment groups

Your doctor puts you into one of four basic groups to work out the treatment you need. Your treatment group depends on the grade and stage or your lymphoma.

Grade

Doctors put NHL into groups depending on whether they tend to grow faster or slower. This is called the grade. NHL can be low grade (also called indolent). These tend to grow slowly. Or they can be high grade (also called aggressive). These tend to grow more quickly.

Stage

The stage shows whether NHL is in one area of your body (localised) or has spread to other areas.

There are 4 different stages of NHL. But in practice, doctors put the stages into 2 main groups to decide on treatment. These are called:

  • limited disease (or localised disease)
  • advanced disease

The groups

These groupings only give doctors a guide to follow. Your own doctors make individual decisions about treatment based on your personal case.

The four basic groups for treatment are:

  • low grade with limited disease
  • low grade with advanced disease
  • high grade with limited disease
  • high grade with advanced disease

Clinical trials to improve treatment

Your doctor might ask if you’d like to take part in a clinical trial. Doctors and researchers do trials to improve treatment by:

  • making existing treatments better
  • developing new treatments
You can call the Cancer Research UK information nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. They are happy to help. They can give advice about who can help you and what kind of support is available.
Last reviewed: 
10 Sep 2014
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
    K Shankland and others
    Lancet 2012 September, Volume 380, Issue 9844, Pages 848-57.

  • ESMO Guidelines consensus conference on malignant lymphoma 2011 part 1: diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), follicular lymphoma (FL) and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
    M. Ghielmini and others
    Annals of Oncology (2013) , Volume 24, Issue 3, Pages 561-576

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