Treatment Options

Treatment Options

Today, people facing lymphoma have more options for treatment, with better chances of cure and long-term survival. Advances in cancer diagnosis and treatment allow us to precisely target your care to be as effective as possible.

Your Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) doctors will recommend treatment based on many factors, including:

  • The type and stage of your lymphoma
  • Whether it is slow-growing (indolent), fast-growing (aggressive), or somewhere in between
  • Your overall health and age
  • Whether the cancer is newly diagnosed or has recurred

Full Range of Lymphoma Treatments

For non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the most common treatments are chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted therapy with small-molecule drugs or antibodies (man-made versions of immune system proteins). Many people are cured with one or more of these treatments. Because lymphoma usually has spread by the time it is detected, doctors typically use surgery only for a biopsy to establish a diagnosis, not as part of treatment.

Treatment in Clinical Studies

Depending on your situation, your doctor may suggest other treatments, including options you can access by taking part in one of the many lymphoma clinical studies being conducted through Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) and its founding organizations, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and UW Medicine. SCCA doctors are actively investigating new approaches to T-cell lymphomas, which are particularly challenging to treat with current therapies.

Bone Marrow Transplant

People whose disease is not cured with initial treatment or who get recurrent lymphoma may have a bone marrow transplant in combination with other therapies. Doctors at the Fred Hutchinson Transplant Program at SCCA pioneered bone marrow transplantation 40 years ago and have performed more transplants than any institution in the world.

Other Considerations

Indolent (slow-growing) NHL is rarely cured, but treatment often keeps it well controlled for many years. Cure is more likely if the NHL is intermediate or fast-growing and is treated with chemotherapy and antibody therapy or with a stem cell transplant. For details about specific treatments for your type of NHL, see details on B-cell and T-cell lymphomas.

Cutaneous lymphoma, which is a rare type of skin lymphoma, may be treated with a different set of therapies. Lymphoma in children can be different than the disease and treatment in adults. If you are concerned about a child who has non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, please visit our section on childhood non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

As with any cancer, treatments will be modified if patients are pregnant. Lymphoma related to infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) needs special care and different treatment options.

Supportive care and management of pain and other symptoms, with an emphasis on quality of life, are as important to our doctors as they are to you, and these are part of every patient’s care.

Watchful Waiting

If you have slow-growing (also called “indolent” or “low-grade”) lymphoma and have no symptoms, your doctor may recommend watchful waiting. This means closely monitoring your health for any changes and not providing treatments. Studies have shown that an initial period of watchful waiting does not compromise overall survival for patients with indolent lymphomas. Watchful waiting is not appropriate for patients with aggressive non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, who should always be treated promptly.

Newly Diagnosed

Our experienced, compassionate team is dedicated to turning people with cancer into survivors. If you have recently been diagnosed with lymphoma, learning about treatment options is a good start. Your most important decision, however, is selecting where to get treatment.


Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is most often treated with anti-cancer drugs, called chemotherapy, usually given intravenously (by IV). Chemotherapy may be combined with other treatments.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy, which uses high-energy particles or beams, may be used with or without chemotherapy to treat non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In some cases, a radioactive atom is combined with an antibody that targets cancer cells to deliver a concentrated radiation dose.

Targeted Therapy

Two types of targeted therapies are used against NHL. Small-molecule drugs target a gene or protein responsible for allowing cancer to grow. Monoclonal antibodies seek out and damage cancer cells or trigger the immune system to attack them.

Bone Marrow Transplant

People whose lymphoma is not cured with initial treatment or who get recurrent lymphoma may have a bone marrow transplant in combination with other therapies.

Supportive Care

We provide care beginning at the time of diagnosis to decrease your symptoms, improve your quality of life, and prevent or treat health problems related to your lymphoma or its treatment.