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Complications of non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Being immunocompromised (having a weakened immune system) is a common complication of lymphoma treatment. Even if your lymphatic system is restored to normal, many of the medications that treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma weaken your immune system.

This means you are more vulnerable to infections, and there is an increased risk of developing serious complications from infections. You may be advised to take regular doses of antibiotics to prevent infections occurring in the early stages after treatment. Your immune system will usually recover in the months and years after treatment.

If you think you might have an infection, you must report any symptoms to your care team or doctor immediately because prompt treatment may be needed to prevent serious complications. This is particularly important in the first few months after treatment.

Symptoms of infection include:

You should also make sure that all of your vaccinations are up to date. Your doctor or care team will advise you on this.

Infertility

Many of the treatments for lymphoma can cause infertility. Infertility is often temporary, but in some cases it may be a permanent side effect.

People who are particularly at risk of becoming infertile are those who have received very high doses of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Your care team will estimate the risk of infertility in your specific circumstances and it is sometimes possible for men to store samples of their sperm, and for women to store their eggs, for use when their treatment is completed.

Use of contraception is strongly recommended during chemotherapy and for one year afterwards as chemotherapy can damage a new embryo (baby).

Other health issues

Treatment for lymphoma can increase your risk of getting conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, thyroid disease, diabetes and cataracts at a younger age than normal. Having a diagnosis of cancer can also increase your risk of suffering from depression. These conditions can all be effectively managed if you report unusual symptoms to your doctor.

Second cancers

Unfortunatedly people who have had one cancer are more likely to get a second cancer, which may be the same or different to their first cancer. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy further increase this risk.

This risk will have been considered carefully when your initial treatment was planned - it is one of the reasons why a period of 'watchful waiting' is recommended for many people with low-grade non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

You can help avoiding a second cancer by adopting a healthy lifestyle (not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight with a balanced diet, taking regular exercise). You should also report any symptoms that might suggest another cancer to your doctor at an early stage.

Source: NHS Choices, UK (Complications of non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma)

Last reviewed: September 2015

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