Surgery for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in Children

Surgery often has a limited role in treating non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) since it’s unlikely to cure it by itself, and normal organs might be damaged in the process.

Surgery is sometimes used as the first treatment for early-stage Burkitt lymphoma that is in only one area (such as part of the intestine) to try to remove as much of the tumor as possible before chemotherapy. If the lymphoma can be removed completely, doctors might be able to give a less intensive chemotherapy regimen.

Other uses of surgery include:

  • To get biopsy samples for lab tests to determine the exact type of NHL if non-surgical procedures (needle biopsy, bone marrow biopsy, etc.) could not get enough tissue.
  • To insert a small plastic tube, called a central venous catheter or venous access device (VAD), into a large blood vessel near the heart. The end of the tube stays just under the skin or sticks out in the chest area or upper arm. The VAD is left in place during treatment to give intravenous (IV) drugs such as for chemotherapy and to take blood samples. This lowers the number of needle sticks needed during treatment.
  • To relieve some emergency situations, such as if a lymphoma has blocked a child’s intestines.

Possible risks and side effects of surgery

Possible complications of surgery depend on the location and extent of the operation and the child’s health beforehand. Serious complications, although rare, can include problems with anesthesia, bleeding, blood clots, wound infections, and pneumonia. Most children will have some pain for a while after the operation, although this can usually be helped with medicines if needed.

For more information on surgery as a treatment for cancer, see Cancer Surgery.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: March 7, 2014 Last Revised: January 27, 2016

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