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Surgery usually does not have a major role in treating childhood non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) since it’s unlikely to cure it by itself, and normal organs might be damaged in the process.
When might surgery be used?
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 (chemo). If the lymphoma can be removed completely, doctors might be able to give a less intensive chemo regimen.
Other uses of surgery include:
To get biopsy samples for lab tests to determine the exact type of NHL a child has, if non-surgical procedures (needle biopsy, bone marrow biopsy, etc.) can't get enough tissue for testing.
To insert a small plastic tube, called a central venous catheter (CVC) 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. This is left in place during treatment to give intravenous (IV) drugs such as chemo 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.
More information about Surgery
For more general information about surgery as a treatment for cancer, see Cancer Surgery.
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
Last Revised: August 10, 2021
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Gross TG, Kamdar KY, Bollard CM. Chapter 19: Malignant Non-Hodgkin Lymphomas in Children. In: Blaney SM, Adamson PC, Helman LJ, eds. Pizzo and Poplack’s Principles and Practice of Pediatric Oncology. 8th ed. Philadelphia Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2021.
National Cancer Institute Physician Data Query (PDQ). Childhood Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment. 2021. Accessed at https://www.cancer.gov/types/lymphoma/hp/child-nhl-treatment-pdq on June 10, 2021.
Sandlund JT, Onciu M. Chapter 94: Childhood Lymphoma. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier; 2020.
Termuhlen AM, Gross TG. Overview of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in children and adolescents. UpToDate. 2021. Accessed at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/overview-of-non-hodgkin-lymphoma-in-children-and-adolescents on June 14, 2021.
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