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About radiotherapy for non Hodgkin lymphoma

Men and women discussing non Hodgkin's lymphoma

This page tells you about radiotherapy for non Hodgkin lymphoma. You can find the following information

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

About radiotherapy for non Hodgkin lymphoma

Radiotherapy uses high energy rays to kill cancer cells. Radiotherapy is often used as a local treatment. You have it when there are lymphoma cells in one or two areas of lymph nodes in one part of the body (stage 1 or 2). You may have radiotherapy with chemotherapy for high grade NHL or if there is a lot of lymphoma. Or after chemotherapy to help stop the lymphoma from coming back. 

You usually have radiotherapy treatment once a day from Monday to Friday, with a rest over the weekend. The length of the treatment will depend on the type and size of your lymphoma. Each treatment only takes a few minutes. You cannot feel it and it does not make you radioactive. There is no risk to your family when you return home. 

Planning your treatment

On your first visit, you lie under a large specialised CT scanning machine. Your treatment team uses the machine to work out exactly where to give the treatment. The doctor will make marks on your skin that the radiographer uses to line up the radiotherapy machine when you have your treatment.

Side effects

Radiotherapy has 2 main short term side effects. It can cause red, sore skin in the area being treated. And it may make you very tired. If you are having radiotherapy to your brain, as part of a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, you may feel very, very tired. Other radiotherapy side effects vary, depending on the part of the body being treated.
 

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Radiotherapy for NHL

Radiotherapy uses high energy rays to kill cancer cells. Radiotherapy is often used as a local treatment. You have it when there are lymphoma cells in one or two areas of lymph nodes in one part of the body (stage one or two). You may have radiotherapy with chemotherapy for high grade NHL or if there is a lot of lymphoma. Or after chemotherapy to help stop the lymphoma from coming back. 

 

When and where you have radiotherapy

You have radiotherapy treatment in the hospital radiotherapy department. Usually, you have treatment once a day from Monday to Friday, with a rest over the weekend. The length of the treatment will depend on the type and size of your lymphoma.

 

Planning your radiotherapy

Having radiotherapy

Radiotherapy treatment is carefully planned. On your first visit, you lie under a large specialised CT scanning machine. Your treatment team uses the machine to work out where to give the treatment to kill the most cancer cells, and miss as much healthy tissue as possible.

The doctor makes marks on your skin during the planning session. The radiographer uses these marks to line up the radiotherapy machine every day when you have your treatment. So it is important not to wash them off. The radiographer will explain how to look after your markings. There is information about radiotherapy skin markings in the radiotherapy planning section.

 

Having your radiotherapy

The actual treatment only takes a few minutes. The radiographer positions you on the couch and makes sure you are as comfortable as possible. You will be alone while you have your treatment, but you can talk to the radiographer through an intercom.

Radiotherapy doesn't hurt. You will not be able to feel it, but you will have to lie very still for a few minutes while you are being treated. External radiotherapy does not make you radioactive. It is safe to be with other people, including children, throughout your treatment.

 

Side effects

Radiotherapy has 2 main short term side effects. It can cause red, sore skin in the area being treated. And it may make you very tired.

The tiredness usually comes on as you go through your course of treatment. It may last for a few weeks after your treatment has finished. Tiredness is an effect of the radiation. And as you have to travel to the hospital daily for the treatment, this builds up after a few weeks. It is best to accept that you need to rest. If you try to struggle on, you will get even more tired and it will take longer to get better.

If family commitments are going to make it difficult for you to rest, it is worth planning ahead. You will probably need more help as your treatment goes on. There is more information about where to get help in the who can help section.

If you are having radiotherapy to your brain, as part of a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, you may become very, very tired. Doctors call this somnolence syndrome. Some people are affected more than others. At its worst, you may be asleep practically all the time for a while. But it does wear off.

Other radiotherapy side effects vary, depending on the part of the body being treated. The radiotherapy section has information about side effects to the

 

More information about radiotherapy

Look at the radiotherapy section for more information about this type of treatment, including

If you would like more information about anything to do with radiotherapy, contact our cancer information nurses. They will be happy to help. Or contact one of the cancer information organisations on our non Hodgkin lymphoma organisations page. They often have free factsheets and booklets which they can send to you.

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Updated: 29 October 2012