Understanding Hodgkin Lymphoma: Radiation

Radiation therapy is also called radiotherapy or radiation. A large machine aims high-energy rays at the lymph node areas affected by lymphoma. This can shrink tumors and help control pain. It affects cells in the treated area only.

 Radiation can pinpoint the lymphoma cells very well. In addition, radiation therapy is relatively easy to tolerate, because its side effects are limited to the treated area.

A radiation oncologist will oversee your radiation treatments. There are 2 major types of radiation used for Hodgkin lymphoma:

External beam radiation therapy: This is the most common type of radiation used. Short bursts of X-ray beams are fired from the machine at your cancer. This type of radiation is designed to treat the cancer but affect as little normal tissue as possible.

Intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT). This less common form of radiation uses many thin beams to focus the highest dose of radiation on the tumor.

What to Expect

The goal of radiation is to kill as much lymphoma as possible while preserving normal tissue. Your radiation oncologist will determine how many treatments you will receive. Sometimes treatments are given once a day and sometimes twice a day. A standard treatment usually only takes a few minutes. The total treatment time can take between three to five weeks, depending on the total dose required. Most people go to a hospital or clinic for treatment 5 days a week for several weeks.

The most common side effects of radiation are gastrointestinal symptoms, like diarrhea, fatigue, cramping and irritation. PearlPoint Cancer Support’s oncology registered dietitians can help you with suggestions to help you with these side effects. Click here to schedule a consultation.

Many people become very tired during radiation therapy, especially in the later weeks of treatment. It’s important that you rest when you need to. In addition, your skin in the area being treated may become red, dry, and tender. You also may lose your hair in the treated area.

Although the side effects are unpleasant, they can usually be managed. Talk to your doctor or nurse about any side effects. The good news is that, in most cases, the side effects are only temporary. Once the treatments are over, the side effects should go away.

What questions should I ask my doctor about radiation therapy?

Questions to Ask About Radiation Therapy

You may want to ask your doctor these questions before having radiation therapy:

  • Why do I need this treatment?
  • When will the treatments begin? When will they end?
  • How will I feel during treatment?
  • How will we know if the radiation treatment is working?
  • Are there any lasting side effects?

Return to treatment options.

Return to "Hodgkin Lymphoma: An Introduction."