Childhood non-Hodgkin lymphoma

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Treatments for childhood non-Hodgkin lymphoma

If your child has non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), the healthcare team will create a treatment plan based on your child’s health, specific information about the cancer and the best treatment options available. When deciding which treatments to offer for childhood NHL, the healthcare team will consider:

  • the type of NHL
  • the stage of the cancer
  • the location and size of the tumour
  • your child’s age
  • your 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. For some types of childhood NHL, the risk group is part of the staging for childhood NHL.

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 syndrome, 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 buildup of uric acid.

The following is general information about treatments offered for childhood NHL. Find out more about treatments for childhood Burkitt lymphoma, childhood lymphoblastic lymphoma, childhood diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, childhood anaplastic large cell lymphoma and childhood primary mediastinal B-cell lymphoma.


Chemotherapy is the main treatment for childhood NHL. It is also given to prevent or treat the spread of NHL to the brain and spinal cord (called the central nervous system, or CNS). Chemotherapy uses anticancer drugs to destroy cancer cells.

Find out more about chemotherapy for childhood NHL.

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapy may be used to treat some types of childhood NHL. Targeted therapy uses drugs to target specific molecules (such as proteins) on or inside cancer cells to stop the growth and spread of cancer and limit harm to normal cells.

Find out more about targeted therapy for childhood NHL.

Stem cell transplant

A stem cell transplant may be used to treat childhood NHL that comes back after treatment (called recurrent, or relapsed, NHL). A stem cell transplant uses high-dose chemotherapy to kill all of the cells in the bone marrow. Healthy stem cells are given to replace the ones in the bone marrow that were destroyed.

Find out more about stem cell transplants 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 a bowel obstruction) caused by a tumour in the abdomen.

Find out more about surgery for childhood NHL.


Immunotherapy may be used to treat certain types of childhood NHL that doesn’t respond to other treatments or comes back after treatment.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is usually only used in emergency situations or to treat childhood NHL that starts in or spreads to the CNS. Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays or particles to destroy cancer cells.

Find out more about radiation therapy for childhood NHL.

Follow-up care

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. Find out more about follow-up care.

Clinical trials

Children with cancer may be treated in a clinical trial. Clinical trials look at new ways to prevent, find and treat cancer. Find out more about clinical trials.

Questions to ask about treatment

To make the decisions that are right for your child, ask the healthcare team questions about treatment.

tumour lysis syndrome

A 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.