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MRO–Advanced radiation therapy for lymphoma, that’s close to home

Lymphoma, a cancer that develops in your lymphatic or immune systems, is a complex and multifaceted disease. There are several types and many subtypes. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma ranks as the fifth most common cancer in Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

Incidence of lymphoma is over 50% higher among males than females in Minnesota and nationwide. 

If you’ve been diagnosed with lymphoma, you can find leading-edge technology and therapy close to home, at Minneapolis Radiation Oncology. MRO is the Twin Cities’ leading provider of advanced radiation therapy for cancer, with 11 locations across the Twin Cities, Brainerd Lakes Area, and Western Wisconsin.

Since 1981, our radiation oncology specialists have treated over 100,000 patients – more than any other clinics in Minnesota. And we’ve established a reputation as trusted allies in the fight against cancer.

At MRO, we understand the uncertainty that comes with a cancer diagnosis. Our radiation oncologists and care teams are committed to helping you understand the complexities of the disease and how radiation treatment may help with your cancer. Our MRO radiation oncologists provide a level of expertise that comes only from working exclusively with radiation cancer treatments every day. Count on the cancer specialists on our team to be here for you with care, comfort, and compassion.Click here to request an appointment

“My goal is to provide the best treatment possible for each of my patients using state-of-the-art technology combined with personal care and attention. I aim to treat each of my patients as if they were a family member, by informing and supporting them throughout their treatment and beyond.”
Kurt Nisi, MD
MRO | North Memorial

What is lymphoma?

Lymphoma is a cancer that begins in the cells of your lymphatic system, which is the system actually meant to help you fight off disease. The two main types are Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). The two types don’t spread in the same way and respond to different treatments. However, both types can often be cured.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is the most common form of lymphoma and consists of a family of similar diseases that develop when immune cells begin to grow out of control  and crowd out healthy immune cells. These cells may also form tumors in the lymph nodes, spleen, and other organs.

Hodgkin lymphoma
Hodgkin lymphoma can start almost anywhere but is most often found in the lymph nodes in the upper part of the body: neck, chest, or under the arms. Hodgkin lymphoma most often spreads through the lymph vessels from lymph node to lymph node. In later stages, it may invade the bloodstream and spread to other parts of the body.

More than 70,000 cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma are diagnosed every year and include dozens of types and sub-types.

Why choose radiation therapy for lymphoma?

Radiation therapy plays a substantial role in treatment for all types of lymphoma. For classic Hodgkin lymphoma, radiation can be very effective when given after chemotherapy, especially where there’s a large tumor. Radiation may be the primary treatment for certain cases of nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin lymphoma (NHLPL).

For non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) radiation may be used:

  • As the main treatment for some types of early-stage lymphoma.
  • For more advanced lymphomas or more aggressive types, for which radiation is sometimes used along with chemotherapy.
  • To treat people who are getting a stem cell transplant. In these cases, a patient may get radiation to the whole body along with high-dose chemotherapy to try to kill lymphoma cells throughout the body.
  • To ease (palliate) symptoms caused by lymphoma that has spread to internal organs or when a tumor is causing pain because it’s pressing on nerves.

Radiation technology is proven effective

At MRO, we use radiation, or radiotherapy, to destroy cancer cells with radiation. Using state-of-the-art imaging technologies, such as MRI, CT, and PET, your MRO care team can pinpoint radiation doses down to the millimeter.

Different types of lymphoma require several different treatment techniques, but each of them directs precise doses of radiation at cancer cells, which are more susceptible to radiation than healthy cells. Like an x-ray, radiation therapy is painless. There’s no fear of becoming radioactive during or after treatment.

The incidence of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) in Minnesota has followed national trends, with a 1.9% annual drop in incidence rates since 2011. - MN Dept. of Health

Radiation treatment options for lymphoma

Considering the complexities of non-Hodgkin and Hodgkin lymphomas, Minneapolis Radiation Oncology physicians work closely with your oncology team to develop a treatment plan tailored to the specific lymphoma type, with a goal of maximizing the chance for disease response and minimizing potential side effects.

External beam radiation therapy (EBRT): Delivers radiation to lymphoma cells from outside the body, using a variety of machine-based technologies. EBRT may also be used to relieve pain or discomfort caused by an enlarged spleen or swollen lymph nodes.

Your treatment is a team effort

When you talk to your doctor about treatment options, ask if MRO is the right choice for you. We’ll start with a consultation appointment lasting one or two hours. During that time, you’ll meet with a radiation oncologist.

Once the radiation oncologist has examined you, he or she will discuss treatment options and the pros and cons of radiation treatment. A radiation therapy nurse will also be there to help explain treatment, discuss how sessions are scheduled, and provide information on how to take care of yourself during treatment.

Since radiotherapy for lymphoma requires the utmost precision, you’ll also go through a simulation at the MRO Therapy Center. Using image mapping as a guide, your care team will position you as you would be for treatment and take measurements to build a targeted treatment plan and pinpoint the radiation for the best possible outcome.

For questions to ask your provider, see our FAQ page.

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We make treatment as easy as possible so you can get back to living your life

Your own treatment schedule will be specifically tailored to you, at the MRO clinic that is most convenient to you. Treatment will depend on the type of tumor you have, where the tumor is located, and what type of technology we’ll be using. You’ll also meet with your physician each week to monitor progress and touch base with your nurse, who can answer any questions you may have.

“Radiation oncology allows me to combine my interests in patient care,
neuroscience, and medical technology.”
Somu Suppiah, MD
MRO | Methodist
MRO | North Memorial

Managing side effects of radiation therapy

Radiation given to several areas of the body, especially after chemotherapy, can lower blood cell counts and increase the risk of infections. With lymphomas, the side effects depend on where the radiation is aimed, but the side effects often go away shortly after treatment is finished.

Common side effects include:

  • Skin changes in areas getting radiation, ranging from redness to blistering and peeling
  • Feeling tired
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite and taste
  • Dry mouth
  • Throat irritation
  • Hair loss

How to care for yourself during treatment

While radiation therapy itself may be painless, it impacts your body in ways that you can’t always see. In order to keep your body strong, here is a list of things to do during treatment:

  • Drink plenty of fluids and eat a healthy diet.

  • Listen to your body when it comes to sleep. Don’t push yourself too hard, and rest when you are tired. You will probably be sleeping more than normal, and that’s okay.

  • Be kind to the skin near your treatment area. Wash the area with mild soap and water, and do not put hot or cold packs on the skin. Contact your MRO care team before using lotions or ointments.

  • Find a support group or seek out help to manage the stress that comes with cancer treatment and a cancer diagnosis.

  • Make sure to tell your doctor about any medicines or supplements you take to ensure they are safe to use during treatment.

  • Follow your doctor’s orders and contact your MRO care team with any questions.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Minnesota Chapter offers a wide range of free educational and support programs for patients, their families, caregivers, and healthcare professionals. For more information, contact Christina Nielsen, Patient & Community Outreach Manager at 612-259-4522 or christina.nielsen@lls.org.

Life after treatment

After you’ve completed treatment, you’ll have follow-up visits with your MRO radiation oncologist and the doctor who referred you to MRO, especially in the first few months after treatment, to make sure there is no progression or recurrence. During this time, it’s important to report any new symptoms to your doctor right away, so the cause can be found and treated.

Follow-up care varies from patient to patient. Your physician may also recommend home care, occupational or vocational therapy, pain management, physical therapy, and/or participation in support groups.

For more information, visit our resources page.