Potential Side Effects from Chemotherapy for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

The side effects from chemotherapy usually get better or go away when the treatment ends. The extent of these side effects varies. It depends on the specific drugs you take, how you take them, and how your body reacts to them. Talk with your doctor or nurse about what to expect and how to ease these side effects.

Here are some of the more common temporary side effects from chemotherapy:

  • Hair loss

  • Infections from low white blood cell counts

  • Mouth sores

  • Easy bruising or bleeding from low blood platelets  

  • Fatigue from low red blood cell counts (anemia)

  • Loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting

  • Constipation or diarrhea

  • Skin changes

It’s likely that your doctor will take blood tests from you often while you’re getting chemotherapy. Make sure you ask which signs, if any, require that you call your doctor or nurse right away. For instance, chemotherapy can make you more vulnerable to infections, so you should call your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Fever (temperature 100.5 degrees or higher)

  • Sore throat

  • Shaking chills

  • Redness, swelling, and warmth at the site of an injury

  • New cough or shortness of breath

  • Burning during urination

These are the more serious potential side effects of chemotherapy for lymphoma:

  • Tumor lysis syndrome, caused by the breakdown of large numbers of lymphoma cells. This can affect your kidneys, heart, and nervous system. This is seen most often with the first chemotherapy treatment for larger lymphomas. If your doctor thinks this might happen, he or she will give you fluids and medicines to help reduce this risk.

  • Organ damage, including damage to kidneys, liver, testes, ovaries, brain, heart, and lungs

  • Leukemia, a rare, but serious, late complication of chemotherapy