Lymphoma: Side Effects


Common Radiation Side Effects

The side effects of radiation occur only in radiation areas. For example, hair loss only occurs with radiation treatment to the head/neck area. Nausea and vomiting only occur with radiation treatment to the stomach or abdomen area.

Common side effects include:

  • Dry Mouth A temporary decrease in the production of saliva during radiation therapy. Because saliva helps prevent cavities, patients may be advised to visit the dentist before radiation to receive fluoride treatments.
  • Throat Irritation When receiving radiation to the neck, throat or chest, patients may experience a sore throat, dry mouth, nausea or cough. They may have difficulty eating and swallowing, especially toward the end of treatment. Difficulty in swallowing will usually go away in the weeks following therapy.
  • Skin Reactions Radiation can cause a slight to moderate reddening of the skin and is often accompanied by discomfort, itching and flaking. Moist areas such as the area around the mouth may be more prone to irritation. These skin changes usually diminish and disappear over a few weeks.
  • Nausea, Loss of Appetite and Taste Nausea may occur after the first radiation treatment, especially in patients who have radiation to the abdomen. Some people can avoid nausea if they do not eat several hours before radiation treatment.  
  • Hair Loss Unlike the hair loss that is caused by chemotherapy, hair loss caused by radiation occurs only on the specific area of the body that was irradiated. The hair loss is generally temporary, but may be permanent, especially with higher doses of radiation.
  • Fatigue The likelihood that you will experience fatigue is based in part on your illness, in part on the frequency of radiation treatments and in part on the specifics of the radiation therapy.
  • Pain Pain can be caused by the tumor itself when the lymphoma presses on bones, nerves or body organs. Pain can also occur because of treatments, procedures or tests. Pain may be acute (severe and lasting for a short period of time) or chronic (severe or mild over a long period of time).

Common Chemotherapy Side Effects

Common side effects of chemotherapy include:

  • Myelosuppression A term used for when chemotherapy temporarily interferes with the ability of the bone marrow to produce adequate numbers of blood cells.
  • Anemia A term used for when myelosuppression causes a reduction in the number of red blood cells and hemoglobin, which is contained in the red blood cells. Anemia can cause people to feel very tired. Mild or moderate anemia is expected with many chemotherapy regimens and treatment for the anemia may be necessary. If anemia is severe, a blood transfusion may be necessary to increase the red blood cell count.
  • Neutropenia A term used for when myelosuppression causes a decrease in neutrophils, the primary white blood cells found in the blood. Because neutrophils play a very important role in fighting infection, a low count may cause patients to develop serious infections that require hospitalization or antibiotic therapy.
  • Thrombocytopenia A term used for when myelosuppression depletes the number of platelets in the blood. Platelets help start the clotting process when patients are bleeding, and so if their platelet count is low, patients may bruise easily.
  • Hair Loss Thinning or loss of hair can occur at any place, including the scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes, arms, legs and pelvis. Hair loss occurs about two to three weeks after the first chemotherapy. Hair loss due to chemotherapy is usually temporary and hair will grow back when the chemotherapy is over. At first, new hair may be a slightly different texture or color than it was before, but it usually returns to normal.
  • Nausea or Vomiting Nausea most frequently occurs on the day of chemotherapy, but can also start one or two days later. 
  • Diarrhea While most patients do not experience severe diarrhea, the most important thing to remember is to avoid dehydration.
  • Mouth Sores The membranes of the mouth may become red, sore or irritated during chemotherapy. Infections of the mouth and throat caused by viruses or fungi may also occur.
  • Changes in Taste Some people will experience a change in the way foods or beverages taste. Familiar foods sometimes taste differently or flavors of foods are not as strong.
  • Fatigue Fatigue is a common side effect of many types of chemotherapy. Fatigue should go away after treatments are over, but it can take weeks or months until it is completely gone.