Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill or slow the growth of lymphoma cells. A big benefit of chemotherapy is that it is systemic. That means that the drugs travel throughout your whole body. Here’s why that’s good: It may be able to kill lymphoma cells that have spread beyond the first place it occurred.
The doctor who treats you with chemotherapy is called a medical oncologist or hematologist. Chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin lymphoma often uses more than one drug. That’s why it’s called combination chemotherapy. You may want to know what drugs you’re taking and how you will take them. You may also want to know their common side effects. Your doctor and chemotherapy nurse will give you those details.
Your doctor has several options for how to give you chemotherapy drugs.
Intravenous (IV) injection or drip. You may get an injection into a vein, usually over a few minutes. Another way to get the medicine into your vein is by an IV drip. In that case, a bag is filled with medicine that drips through a tube into your vein over a longer period of time.
Injection. You get these drugs by a needle injected into your muscle or under your skin.
Oral. You swallow these drugs as pills.
Intrathecal. If the lymphoma has reached your brain or spinal cord, you may get drugs infused into your spinal fluid.
You get chemotherapy in cycles. This reduces the damage to healthy cells and helps the drugs kill more lymphoma cells. This cycle also gives you a break between treatments. Your doctor will decide if you need to get treatment daily, weekly, every few weeks, or monthly.
Chemotherapy may increase your risk of infection or you may experience side effects such as fatigue, nausea or vomiting, loss of appetite, hair loss, or diarrhea. Your doctor can help you manage side effects during chemotherapy. After chemotherapy is finished, side effects usually go away.
Chemotherapy is usually given in an outpatient setting. That means you get it at a hospital, clinic, or doctor’s office. You don’t have to stay the night in the hospital. You will be watched during your treatments to make sure you don’t have a reaction. Some types of chemotherapy treatments last awhile. So you may want to take along something that is comforting to you. Some people bring music to listen to. You may also want to bring a deck of cards, book, or crossword puzzle.