What are the goals of treatment?
Follicular lymphoma is not curable, but the disease can be managed over time. After initial treatment, your disease may progress (relapse) and require treatment again. In each stage of treatment, the goal is to relieve symptoms, stop the cancer from becoming worse, or achieve remission.
Treatment goals and options depend on how much your symptoms are affecting you
- When you have no symptoms, close monitoring is usually preferred over treatment. This is often referred to as watchful waiting or active surveillance
- When symptoms appear or worsen, treatment aims to stop the follicular lymphoma from progressing
Follicular lymphoma can be treated in a number of ways, including antibody therapy and/or chemotherapy. Often, doctors will combine the 2 types of treatment.
Once you begin treatment, your doctor will need to regularly check:
- Your symptoms
- The size of your lymph nodes, liver, or spleen
- Your blood count measures
Treatments may vary from patient to patient and depend on various factors, including the stage of your disease, your age, and overall health. Although patients may respond initially, as many as 1 in 5 patients will relapse within 2 years of receiving their initial treatment therapy. Patients who experience such early relapse have poorer outcomes.
Even after years in remission, follicular lymphoma can recur. When a relapse occurs, the cancer can become more difficult to treat. This means that preventing a patient’s disease from returning for as long as possible while minimizing disease symptoms is an important goal of initial treatment.
Antibody therapy is used to find and destroy specific cells within the body. It can use your body’s immune system to help fight cancer. However, it can also harm healthy cells in the body.
Antibody therapy is often an important part of follicular lymphoma treatment plans and can be given along with chemotherapy.
- How it works: Antibody therapy targets a protein found on the surface of follicular lymphoma cells and certain healthy blood cells. It is thought to use your body’s immune system to find and kill lymphoma and healthy cells
Chemotherapy is a type of drug treatment that destroys growing cells, including cancer cells. It is also an important part of follicular lymphoma treatment plans.
Chemotherapy can be given as a single drug or as a combination of drugs, including antibody therapy.
- How it works: Chemotherapy attacks growing cancer cells in the body―but also attacks healthy cells, such as those for hair and the intestinal lining