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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 (an expert who examines any removed tissue)
  • a radiotherapy specialist (clinical oncologist)
  • a pharmacist
  • radiologist (who looks at your scans and x-rays)

Depending on your treatment, your MDT might also include a transplant specialist. You might meet a social worker, psychologist or 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
  • targeted cancer drugs
  • radiotherapy 

Other treatment types include:

  • stem cell transplant
  • surgery

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

Doctors have made a lot of progress in treating NHL in recent years. Increasingly more people are being cured of their disease. It’s even possible for some people with advanced NHL 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 stages of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) tell you about the number and places in the body that are affected by lymphoma. 

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 
  • 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

Your doctor might ask if you’d like to take part in a clinical trial. Doctors and researchers do trials to make existing treatments better and develop new treatments.

For support and information, you can call the Cancer Research UK information nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. They can give advice about who can help you and what kind of support is available.

Information and help

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