AIDS-related Lymphoma

In general, patients with AIDS-related lymphoma respond to treatment differently from patients with lymphoma who do not have AIDS. AIDS-related lymphoma usually grows faster and spreads outside the lymph nodes and to other parts of the body more often than lymphoma that is not related to AIDS.

Because therapy can damage weak immune systems even further, patients who have AIDS-related lymphoma may be treated with lower doses of drugs than those who do not have AIDS.

Two types of treatment are commonly used:


Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Chemotherapy may be taken by pill or it may be put into the body by inserting a needle into a vein or muscle.

Chemotherapy is called a systemic treatment because the drugs enter the bloodstream, travel through the body and can kill cancer cells throughout the body. Most often, a combination of several chemotherapy drugs is given repeatedly over the course of several months in an attempt to cure the lymphoma.

Chemotherapy called intrathecal chemotherapy, may be put into the fluid that surrounds the brain through a needle in the brain or back to treat non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that has spread to the brain. Even if the cancer has not spread to the brain, a few of these treatments into the spinal fluid may be done to prevent the spread of the lymphoma to the brain.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma usually comes from a machine outside the body, called external-beam radiation therapy. Radiation given to the brain is called cranial irradiation.

Radiation therapy may be used alone but more often is given in addition to chemotherapy especially for Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.