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Treatments for childhood non-Hodgkin lymphoma
If a child has non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), the healthcare team will include specialists from different areas of medicine. All of these specialists will have experience treating children with NHL. They will work together to create a treatment plan just for the child. It will be based on your child’s needs and may include a combination of different treatments.
When deciding which treatments to offer for childhood NHL, your child’s healthcare team will consider the:
- type of NHL
- stage of the cancer
- location and size of the tumour
- child’s age
- child’s overall health
When planning treatment for children with Burkitt lymphoma or diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, the healthcare team will also consider the risk group. The risk group is part of the staging for these cancers.
Children with childhood NHL often have complications that need to be treated right away. Children who have blocked airways or organs may need corticosteroid treatment before they start chemotherapy. Once children with NHL start treatment, they often develop tumour lysis syndrometumour lysis syndromeA group of side effects that include kidney, heart and liver damage caused by treatment that rapidly kills cancer cells, which release toxic substances into the blood when they die., which must be treated immediately. Doctors try to prevent side effects of rapid tumour lysis by giving extra fluids and medicines to help keep the kidneys safe from the build-up of uric acid.
The following are treatment options for childhood NHL.
Chemotherapy is the main treatment for childhood NHL.
Surgery is usually only done to diagnose and stage childhood NHL. It is sometimes used to treat early-stage Burkitt lymphoma that starts in the stomach or small intestine. It may also be used in emergency situations, such as for treating a blocked intestine (called bowel obstruction) caused by a tumour in the abdomen.
Radiation therapy is usually only used in emergency situations or to treat lymphoma that starts in or spreads to the brain and spinal cord (called the central nervous system, or CNS).
Stem cell transplant
A stem cell transplant may be used to treat childhood NHL that comes back after treatment (called recurrent, or relapsed, NHL).
Targeted therapy may be used to treat some types of childhood NHL.
Follow-up after treatment is an important part of cancer care. Your child will need to have regular follow-up visits, especially in the first 10 years after treatment has finished. These visits allow the healthcare team to monitor your child’s progress and recovery from treatment. They will also watch for late side effects from treatment.
Many children with cancer are treated in a clinical trial. Clinical trials look at new and better ways to prevent, find and treat cancer. Find out more about clinical trials.
Questions to ask about treatment
Support from someone who has ‘been there’
The Canadian Cancer Society’s peer support program is a telephone support service that matches cancer patients and their caregivers with specially trained volunteers.