Surgery for non-Hodgkin lymphoma

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Surgery is a medical procedure to examine, remove or repair tissue. Surgery, as a treatment for cancer, means removing the tumour or cancerous tissue from your body.

Surgery is sometimes used to treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). The type of surgery you have depends mainly on the type of NHL and where it is in the body. When planning surgery, your healthcare team will also consider other factors, such as your age and overall health.

You may have surgery to:

  • remove NHL that is only in the spleen, stomach, small intestine, thyroid or testicles
  • reduce pain or ease symptoms (called palliative surgery)

The following types of surgery are used to treat NHL.

Local excision

Local excision may be used to completely remove a tumour. This may be used to treat some people with mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) lymphoma, post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder (PTLD) or enteropathy-associated T-cell lymphoma.


The spleen is on the upper-left side of the abdomen. It is attached to the stomach, left kidney and colon (the longest part of the large intestine). A splenectomy is surgery to remove the spleen. It is done under general anesthetic.

To do a splenectomy, the surgeon makes a cut (incision) in the abdomen to reach the spleen. Sometimes the surgeon will make a smaller cut and use a laparoscope (called laparoscopic surgery) to remove the spleen.

Splenectomy may be used to treat splenic marginal zone lymphoma. Doctors may also do a splenectomy to ease discomfort and pain when a spleen that is larger than normal and is pressing on other organs. It is usually done if radiation therapy doesn't shrink the enlarged spleen.

Most people completely recover 4 to 6 weeks after a splenectomy. Recovery time may be shorter after laparoscopic surgery.

Your healthcare team will give you some immunizations before surgery to remove the spleen. These will help prevent infections once your spleen is removed.

Side effects of surgery

Side effects of surgery will depend mainly on the type and site of surgery and your overall health. Tell your healthcare team if you have side effects that you think are from surgery. The sooner you tell them of any problems, the sooner they can suggest ways to help you deal with them.

Surgery for NHL may cause these side effects:

Find out more about surgery

Find out more about surgery and side effects of surgery. To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about surgery.

Expert review and references

  • American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. 2021:
  • Cancer Research UK. Treatment Options. 2020:
  • American Cancer Society. Treating Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma . 2018:
  • PDQ® Adult Treatment Editorial Board. Adult Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment (PDQ®) – Patient Version. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute; 2021:
  • PDQ® Adult Treatment Editorial Board. Adult Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Leukemia Treatment (PDQ®) – Health Professional Version. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute; 2022:

Medical disclaimer

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