Radiation Therapy for Lymphoma
Written by: Dr. Trautmann
Lymphoma, or “cancer of the lymph glands” is usually very responsive to chemotherapy and radiation, and often curable. It is divided into two basic categories: (1) Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (sometimes called Hodgkin’s Disease), and (2) Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Treatment of these two “cancers” is similar, but not identical.
Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is generally treated with chemotherapy. Radiation is sometimes used to “consolidate” the response to chemotherapy, particularly when only one or two sites are felt to carry significant chance of recurrence. Relatively small doses of radiation are used in this setting.
The category of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphomas contains several sub-types that are treated differently. Some sub-types are very slow growing, and they are sometimes followed by the physician without therapy. Other sub-types require moderately intensive or very intensive chemotherapy. As in Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a moderate dose of radiation is sometimes used to “consolidate” the response to chemotherapy.
Since lymphomas are relatively sensitive to radiation, radiotherapy is often used to shrink large tumors that are causing symptoms. This is done as a “palliative” measure, to control symptoms and improve quality of life.