Complications of non-Hodgkin lymphoma 

Some people treated for non-Hodgkin lymphoma experience long-term problems, even if they've been cured.

Some of the main complications of non-Hodgkin lymphoma are described below.

Weakened immune system

Having a weakened immune system is a common complication of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and it can become more severe while you're being treated.

However, your immune system will usually recover in the months and years after treatment.

If you have a weak immune system, you're more vulnerable to infections, and there's an increased risk of developing serious complications from infections. In some cases, you may be advised to take regular doses of antibiotics to prevent infections occurring.

It's also important to report any symptoms of an infection to your GP or care team 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:

  • a high temperature (fever)
  • headache
  • aching muscles
  • diarrhoea
  • tiredness
  • a painful blistering rash

Vaccination

You should make sure that all of your vaccinations are up to date.

However, it’s important to speak to your GP or care team about this because it may not be safe for you to have "live" vaccines (vaccines containing a weakened form of the virus or organism being vaccinated against) until several months after your treatment finishes.

Examples of "live" vaccines include the:

Infertility

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy for non-Hodgkin lymphoma can cause infertility. This is sometimes temporary, but it can be permanent.

Your care team will estimate the risk of infertility in your specific circumstances and let you know your options.

In some cases, it may be possible for men to store samples of their sperm and for women to store their eggs before treatment, so these can be used to try for a baby afterwards.

Second cancers

Having treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma can increase your risk of developing another type of cancer in the future. This is known as a "second cancer".

The risk of getting cancer is particularly increased after cancer treatment because chemotherapy and radiotherapy damage healthy cells, as well as cancer cells. This damage can then cause the affected cells to become cancerous many years after treatment.

You can help to reduce your risk of a second cancer by adopting a healthy lifestyle through not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight with a balanced diet, and getting regular exercise.

You should report any symptoms that might suggest another cancer to your GP at an early stage and attend any cancer screening appointments you're invited to.

Other health problems

Treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma can increase your risk of getting certain conditions at a younger age than normal, such as:

Having a cancer diagnosis can also increase your risk of depression.

You should report unexpected symptoms, such as increasing shortness of breath, to your GP.


Page last reviewed: 03/11/2015

Next review due: 03/11/2017