Follow-up after treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Follow-up after treatment is an important part of cancer care. Follow-up for non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is often shared among the cancer specialists (oncologists) and your family doctor. Your healthcare team will work with you to decide on follow-up care to meet your needs.

Don’t wait until your next scheduled appointment to report any new symptoms and symptoms that don’t go away. Tell your healthcare team if you have:

  • any new lump or swelling
  • fever that won’t go away
  • night sweats
  • weight loss for no reason

Schedule for follow-up visits

Follow-up visits for NHL are usually scheduled regularly every few months for at least the first year and then gradually less often.

  • For fast-growing (aggressive) lymphomas, follow-up visits happenquite often during the first 3 years and less often after that. There are very few recurrences after 5 years of finishing treatment for aggressive lymphomas, so regular visits may not continue after 5 years.
  • For slow-growing (indolent) lymphomas, regular follow-up visits usually continue throughout the person’s lifetime.

During follow-up visits

During a follow-up visit, your healthcare team will usually ask questions about the side effects of treatment and how you’re coping. They may also ask if you have any new symptoms and if your immunizations are up to date.

Your doctor may do a physical exam, including:

  • measuring vital signs for fever, shortness of breath and rapid heartbeat
  • feeling areas of the neck, underarm and groin for any swollen (enlarged) lymph nodes
  • feeling the abdomen for enlarged organs
  • checking the skeleton for tenderness or pain

Tests are often part of follow-up care. You may have:

  • complete blood count (CBC) to check for abnormal blood cell counts
  • blood chemistry tests to show how well certain organs are working
  • imaging tests, such as chest x-ray, CT scan, MRI or ultrasound to get helpful information about the spleen, liver or lymph nodes
  • bone marrow aspiration and biopsy to follow up after the results of the blood tests or if new symptoms develop

If a recurrence is found, your healthcare team will assess you to determine the best treatment options.

Questions to ask about follow-up

To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about follow-up.

Expert review and references