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Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

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Treatment of limited stage indolent non-Hodgkin lymphoma

The following are treatment options for limited stage indolent non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). The types of treatments given are based on the unique needs of the person with lymphoma.

Radiation therapy

External beam radiation therapy is used most often for limited stage indolent NHL when only 1 or a few groups of lymph nodes contain lymphoma. Involved field radiation therapy (IFRT) is given to the affected areas. Radiation therapy may also be extended to cover nearby lymph nodes. Radiation therapy can effectively treat some people with limited stage indolent lymphoma and a number of them will have long remissions.

Watchful waiting

Watchful waiting may also be offered to some people with limited stage indolent NHL who do not have symptoms. An indolent lymphoma may not need to be treated right away because these lymphomas grow slowly and there may be long periods of time where there is no change in the disease. Early treatment has not shown to improve survival in this subset of lymphomas. People are usually treated only when symptoms appear or the lymphoma progresses.


Chemotherapy may be considered for some people with limited stage indolent lymphoma if they cannot have radiation therapy (all the lymphoma cannot be included in the radiation field) and their lymphoma is causing symptoms. Single drugs may be used, but a combination of chemotherapy drugs is commonly given in these circumstances, along with biological therapy.

Biological therapy

Biological therapy may be offered for some limited stage indolent NHLs along with chemotherapy. Rituximab (Rituxan) is the biological therapy used most often. It is only used for B-cell lymphomas.

Clinical trials

People with limited stage indolent NHL may be offered the opportunity to participate in clinical trials. For more information, go to clinical trials.


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