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Radiation therapy is the use of high-dose X-rays to destroy cancer cells. Radiation therapy is often used for the treatment of cancer, such as non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL), Hodgkin's lymphoma, and all types of leukemia. Radiation therapy may be used alone or in combination with other treatment options, such as chemotherapy.
Radiation may be given in different ways. For lymphoma or leukemia, the way radiation is given depends on the type and stage of cancer being treated.
Side effects are common but generally go away when treatment is finished. They include:
For non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL), radiation may be used alone or in combination with other treatment options, such as chemotherapy. Radiation is also used for palliative care if chemotherapy is not working.
When used to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), radiation therapy is usually given to relieve pain from either an enlarged spleen or lymph nodes.
Radiation therapy is used to help keep an acute leukemia from spreading to the central nervous system (CNS prophylaxis). It is also used to treat recurrent leukemia that has spread to the brain or spinal cord.
For some stages of leukemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL), radiation therapy works well when used alone. But it may be used in combination with chemotherapy, depending on the type and the stage of the cancer.
The short-term side effects of radiation therapy are common but usually get better and go away when treatments stop. These side effects depend on the area of the body affected by treatments and may include:
The long-term side effects of radiation therapy depend on what part of your body was treated, how much radiation you were given, and how long your treatment lasted. For example, radiation therapy to the pelvis may cause permanent sterility. Other long-term side effects may include brain changes, joint problems, lymphedema, mouth problems, and other cancers. These side effects depend on whether you also had chemotherapy.
Radiation therapy to the pelvis may cause permanent sterility. Discuss fertility options with your doctor before you begin pelvic radiation for NHL or CLL.
Current as of: September 8, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Brian Leber MDCM, FRCPC - Hematology
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