Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in Children

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Treating Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma In Children TOPICS

How is non-Hodgkin lymphoma treated in children?

This information represents the views of the doctors and nurses serving on the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Information Database Editorial Board. These views are based on their interpretation of studies published in medical journals, as well as their own professional experience.
The treatment information in this document is not official policy of the Society and is not intended as medical advice to replace the expertise and judgment of your cancer care team. It is intended to help you and your family make informed decisions, together with your doctor.
Your doctor may have reasons for suggesting a treatment plan different from these general treatment options. Don’t hesitate to ask him or her questions about your treatment options.

General treatment information

Children and teens with non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) and their families have special needs. These needs can be met best by cancer centers for children and teens, working closely with the child’s primary care doctor. Treatment in these centers gives you the advantage of having teams of specialists who know the differences between cancers in adults and those in children and teens, as well as the unique needs of younger people with cancer.

For childhood lymphomas, this team is typically led by a pediatric oncologist, a doctor who uses chemotherapy and other medicines to treat children’s cancers. Many other specialists may be involved in your child’s care as well, including other doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, psychologists, social workers, rehabilitation specialists, and other health professionals. For more information, see our document Children Diagnosed With Cancer: Understanding the Health Care System.

After lymphoma is diagnosed and tests have been done to determine its stage, your child’s cancer care team will discuss the treatment options with you. The most important factors in choosing a treatment include the type and stage of the cancer, although other factors can also play a role. The intensive treatment for childhood lymphoma can possibly cause serious side effects. It’s important to discuss all of the options as well as their possible side effects with your child’s doctors so you can make an informed decision. (For a list of some questions to ask, see the section “What should you ask your child’s doctor about non-Hodgkin lymphoma?”)

Chemotherapy (sometimes along with other drugs) is the main treatment for all children with NHL, because it can reach all parts of the body and kill lymphoma cells wherever they may be. Even if the lymphoma appears to be limited to a single swollen lymph node, NHL in a child has often spread by the time it is diagnosed. Lymphoma cells are probably in other organs, but these are too small to be felt by the doctor or seen on imaging tests. Sometimes high-dose chemotherapy followed by a stem cell transplant might be needed if the lymphoma comes back after treatment.

Other types of treatment, such as surgery and radiation, play a much smaller role in treating childhood lymphoma.

The next few sections describe the types of treatments used for NHL in children. This is followed by a description of the most common approaches used based on the type and stage (extent) of the lymphoma.

Last Medical Review: 03/07/2014
Last Revised: 01/06/2015