Chemotherapy is a type of treatment for cancer. It is one of the most common treatments doctors use to manage the different types of lymphoma.

People can typically undergo chemotherapy as outpatients. Chemotherapy treatment usually consists of a combination of various chemotherapy medications that doctors administer to the patient over one or a few days. These medications typically come in the form of tablets or infusions.

After the treatment, a person waits for a few weeks to allow their body to recover from the treatment before receiving another cycle of chemotherapy. People usually undergo chemotherapy treatment for several months and have regular appointments to review how the cancer is reacting to the treatment.

This article will review chemotherapy for the different types of lymphoma, the side effects of chemotherapy, and the other treatment options for lymphomas.

A female sitting behind another female, hugging her and kissing the top of her headShare on Pinterest
GCShutter/Getty Images

Chemotherapy is the main type of treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. This is because the chemotherapy that healthcare professionals administer into the bloodstream can reach most parts of the body. This makes it particularly effective in treating lymphoma.

How doctors administer it

Doctors can give chemotherapy in the form of tablets or intravenously through a vein. If they suspect cancer may spread to the brain, they may also give chemotherapy injections straight into the cerebrospinal fluid.

Doctors may recommend chemotherapy as the sole treatment method for treating cancer. However, depending on the type of the disease, they may suggest this treatment alongside radiation therapy or targeted therapy.

Types of chemotherapy

There are different types of chemotherapy treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, including:

Treatment nameMedications
CHOPThis treatment involves a combination of chemotherapy drugs, including:

During this type of treatment, people also need to take monoclonal antibodies, such as rituximab or obinutuzumab.
CVPThis treatment includes a combination of cyclophosphamide and vincristine. Similar to CHOP treatment, people undergoing CVP need to take prednisolone.
GCVPThis treatment consists of adding a chemotherapy drug called gemcitabine to CVP treatment.
Other drugs for non-Hodgkin lymphomaOther drugs for treating non-Hodgkin lymphoma may include:

Learn more about non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The type of chemotherapy treatment doctors may recommend for treating Hodgkin lymphoma may vary depending on the stage, physical conditions, and symptoms that a person with this type of cancer may experience.

When doctors use it

Chemotherapy is the principal type of treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma. It typically consists of a combination of two or more chemotherapy medications.

Doctors use chemotherapy to destroy cancer cells and help prevent their growth and spread.

How doctors administer it

Doctors typically give chemotherapy for Hodgkin lymphoma intravenously in the form of an infusion. The main three ways of giving chemotherapy include:

  • using a thin tube they pass into a vein in the arm reaching the chest, also called the PICC line
  • using a central line connected to the main vein in the chest
  • a port in the chest that does not come through the skin that can receive drugs injections

People with Hodgkin lymphoma typically receive a new cycle of chemotherapy every 3–4 weeks to allow their bodies to recover from the previous treatment.

Types of chemotherapy

The type of chemotherapy treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma may vary depending on the stage of cancer.

Doctors may administer the chemotherapy treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma alongside radiation therapy in its early stages. Chemotherapy treatment may include:

Treatment nameMedications
ABVDThe combination of chemotherapy drugs for this treatment includes:
Escalated BEACOPPThis type of treatment includes the use of the following chemotherapy drugs:
AVDThis combination of medications includes:

Doctors may recommend undergoing chemotherapy treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma and then involved-site radiation therapy in its later stages. The chemotherapy treatment may include:

  • adriamycin (doxorubicin), bleomycin, vinblastine, dacarbazine (ABVD)
  • ABVD followed by treatment with BEACOPP:
    • bleomycin
    • etoposide
    • Adriamycin (doxorubicin)
    • cyclophosphamide
    • vincristine
    • procarbazine
    • prednisone
  • brentuximab vedotin and Adriamycin (doxorubicin), vinblastine, dacarbazine (AVD) treatment, also known as A+AVD combination

Learn more about Hodgkin lymphoma.

Side effects of chemotherapy may vary from person to person. Some people may only experience a few of them. If a person undergoes chemotherapy, they may experience side effects, including:

  • fatigue
  • nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhea or constipation
  • appetite and weight changes
  • bleeding and easy bruising
  • skin and nail changes, including dry skin
  • mood changes
  • urine and bladder changes
  • anemia
  • hair loss
  • infection
  • oral sores and pain when swallowing
  • neuropathy, including tingling sensation, numbness, and pain
  • fertility problems
  • changes in sexual function and libido
  • difficulty concentrating

Read more about the side effects of chemotherapy.

In some cases, doctors may use other types of treatment for treating people with lymphoma. This depends on the type of lymphoma, its stage, and other factors relating to the health of the person receiving treatment.

Other types of treatment for lymphoma may include:

  • radiation therapy
  • targeted therapy
  • immunotherapy, also known as antibody therapy
  • stem cell transplant
  • steroids
  • CAR T-cell therapy

Here are some common questions about chemotherapy for lymphoma.

How long is chemotherapy treatment for lymphoma?

The duration of chemotherapy treatment for lymphoma usually lasts for several months. However, it may vary depending on the severity, stage of the cancer, and how it reacts to the treatment.

Is lymphoma curable with chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is typically effective in treating lymphoma. However, doctors may recommend a combination of different cancer treatments depending on various factors.

What happens after the first chemo treatment for lymphoma?

After the first chemo treatment, people with lymphoma may have to wait between 3 and 4 weeks before receiving another cycle of therapy. This is to allow the body to recover from the side effects of the treatment.

Chemotherapy is one of the most common treatments for Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Doctors typically administer it in the form of infusions, but tablets may also be available.

Chemotherapy treatment for lymphoma typically lasts several months, and people with cancer usually receive a cycle of chemotherapy every 3–4 weeks. Chemotherapy drugs can help destroy cancer cells and prevent their growth. In some cases, healthcare professionals may administer chemotherapy alongside other cancer treatments, such as radiation therapy and targeted therapy.

Chemotherapy may cause some side effects, including nausea, diarrhea, and fatigue. However, its side effects can vary among individuals.