The treatment given to patients with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is specifically chosen for each individual. This depends on a number of factors, including whether the disease is newly diagnosed or has relapsed, whether the disease is indolent or aggressive, what stage it is at, what type, or 'grade', of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma a patient has, their general health and age, and their needs and wishes.
For many years, the main treatment of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma has been chemotherapy. Today, chemotherapy is frequently combined with monoclonal antibody therapy, which can sometimes also be used on its own.
Radiotherapy can be useful when the disease is confined to one or two areas of the body. High-dose chemotherapy is a further treatment option useful in some patients.
However, this also destroys the bone marrow, which must be restored using transplanted stem cells. Some patients with indolent non-Hodgkin's lymphoma have no symptoms initially, and do not need treatment straight away; this is known as a 'watch and wait' approach.
Before treatment can be started, it is important to find out whether the lymphoma is indolent or aggressive, and also the stage of the lymphoma. This process is likely to involve laboratory tests and a biopsy of diseased lymph nodes. For more information, see Diagnostic visits and check-ups.
It is best to wait until the results of all the investigations are available before making any final decisions about the treatment plan. It might seem, therefore, as if treatment is being unnecessarily delayed, but any slight delay will be more than made up for by ensuring that the right treatment is used.
Patients may have many questions they want to ask the lymphoma team about their treatment and its likelihood of success. Rather than trying to come up with questions during a visit to the hospital, it is worth thinking about these questions beforehand.
For suggestions on what questions people with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma might have during their treatment, see Questions to ask the doctor.