Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma: Radioimmunotherapy (RIT)
What is radioimmunotherapy (RIT)?
Radioimmunotherapy (RIT) is a type of targeted radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses strong X-rays or other waves, or particles, to kill cancer cells. For non-Hodgkin lymphoma, radiation is sometimes given as a medicine injected into your blood. This is RIT. It uses radioactive molecules that are attached to man-made, or synthetic, proteins. These proteins are called monoclonal antibodies. When they are injected into your blood, the antibodies bring small doses of radiation right to the lymphoma cells.
When is RIT used for non-Hodgkin lymphoma?
RIT might be used to treat some types of B-cell lymphomas. It may be used especially if other treatments are no longer working.
How is RIT given?
Your treatment will be done by a nuclear medicine doctor or radiation oncologist. Ask him or her what you can expect to feel during and after the treatment.
You will be treated as an outpatient in a doctor's office, clinic, or in a hospital. This means you don’t have to stay overnight. The total length of treatment is about 1 to 2 weeks.
On the first day of RIT treatment, you get a small dose of medicine that has no radiation. The medicine is sent into your vein by IV, or intravenously. You will be watched closely for allergic reactions or other problems. You’ll be given medicines before the treatment to lower this risk. About a week later, you will get another dose of this medicine without radiation. Within a few hours you will then get the radioactive form of the medicine. This is given through an IV. It will take about 10 minutes.
Ask your healthcare provider what side effects you should watch for after treatment.
Possible side effects of RIT
Some side effects can be similar to an allergic reaction. These occur most often during or shortly after the treatment. They can include:
Flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, and nausea
Rash or hives
Swelling in your throat or chest tightness
Some people may have more serious reactions. These can lead to low blood pressure and trouble breathing. You will be given medicines before your treatment to help lower the risk of this happening.
RIT can increase your risk of some infections for a few months after your treatment. If you were infected with hepatitis B in the past, it can make the virus active again. Your doctor will likely check your blood for signs of hepatitis before starting this medicine.
The treatment can also affect your bone marrow. This can lead to low white blood cell and platelet counts. This increases your risk for infection, bruising, and bleeding.
Call your healthcare provider if you have signs of infection, such as fever or pain. Ask what other symptoms you should call your healthcare provider about.