What to Expect From Treatment
- Radiation for non-hodgkin lymphoma takes just a few minutes
- It doesn’t hurt, and you can’t see it, feel it, see it, or smell it
- Although radiation can cause skin redness and other minor side effects, people generally tolerate it well
Learning about the process that’s in store for you can help reduce anxiety and prepare you for your treatment.
The Radiation Procedure ExplainedRead More
Is Radiation Painful?Radiation is not painful, Dr. Pinnix explains. It’s also not a sensory experience. “You can’t hear it, feel it, see it, or smell it,” she says. “You are lying still on the table. Your therapists usually put on the music of your choice.”
“There’s no one in the room with you during treatment, but we can see you in the room,” she adds.
How Long Does It Take?
Radiation is a fast procedure. Treatment usually takes only about 15 minutes.
“If you’re doing breath hold, you’ll have to hold your breath during the treatment,” Dr. Pinnix explains, describing the technique used to protect the heart. Holding your breath, which you may need to do for about 20 seconds, moves your heart out of your chest to reduce its exposure to radiation.
How Much Radiation Will You Actually Get?
Most treatments last for about three weeks, Dr. Pinnix says. High doses of radiation are usually not required for lymphoma. Solid cancers need two to three times the radiation dose as lymphoma, she says.
“When you leave, you’re not radioactive,” she says. “You’re safe to be around your family and friends.”
What Happens After Radiation Therapy?
“Most of our patients tolerate treatment quite well,” Dr. Pinnix says. “By the end of treatment, they may or may not have a little bit of rosiness under the skin, but no severe burns. And some patients, depending on the area you’re targeting, might get a little bit of a sore throat, but that will resolve.”
Because radiation kills healthy cells along with cancerous ones, it can also cause mouth sores, trouble swallowing, hair loss in the treated area, nausea, and diarrhea. Some of these side effects appear right after treatment, while others take longer to emerge. Most will go away within a few weeks after you finish treatment.
Before you start radiation therapy, ask your doctor what side effects you might expect to have, and how to manage them if you do.