Radiation Therapy for AIDS-Related Lymphoma

Doctors at NYU Langone may prescribe radiation therapy in combination with medication and stem cell transplantation to manage AIDS-related lymphoma. Radiation therapy uses energy beams that penetrate the skin, killing cancer cells in the body. Some forms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, especially those that affect the type of lymphocyte called a B cell, are more responsive to radiation therapy than others.

External Beam Radiation Therapy

Doctors may use external beam radiation therapy to treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma in people with tumors confined to one or two groups of lymph nodes. During this therapy, a machine delivers radiation from outside the body to treat AIDS-related lymphoma tumors.

Your doctor carefully plans the dose and location of the radiation to target tumors and avoid healthy tissue. This helps reduce side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Doctors typically administer these treatments in fractions, or doses, once daily, five days a week, for several weeks.

Whole Body Radiation Therapy

Doctors may use whole body radiation therapy—which delivers radiation to a large area of the body—in combination with high-dose chemotherapy, before stem cell transplantation. This treatment may be used to destroy remaining bone marrow before the healthy stem cells are administered.

Radiation therapy is usually performed once or twice a day for several days before stem cell transplantation.

Whole Brain Radiation Therapy

Doctors sometimes use whole brain radiation therapy, in which radiation is delivered to the brain, to treat people with lymphoma that begins in the central nervous system. This form of radiation therapy is reserved for those who cannot tolerate the high doses of chemotherapy that are required to penetrate the brain. Whole brain radiation therapy is usually given daily for up to two weeks.

Managing Side Effects

NYU Langone’s radiation oncologists aim to reduce the risk of side effects of treatment, such as nausea, skin redness, diarrhea, or a reduced number of blood cells. If side effects occur, you should inform the technologists and radiation oncologist, because effective treatments for these complications are almost always available.

NYU Langone also offers a variety of integrative therapies to help you to manage these side effects.

Radiation Therapy Clinical Trials

Researchers at NYU Langone are studying the effectiveness of radiation therapy in combination with immune system–stimulating medications to treat AIDS-related lymphomas that don’t respond to previously available medications. Your doctor can advise you on whether this experimental combination treatment may be right for you.

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