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Complications of lymphoma

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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Stem cell transplant

If you have received an aggressive high-dose regimen of chemotherapy, it can irreversibly damage the stem cells in your bone marrow. Stem cells are important as they have the ability to create other specialised cells, such as red and white blood cells.

If the possibility of bone marrow damage is high, your treatment team will take a small sample of healthy stem cells from your blood. These stem cells can be kept until your treatment is complete, and then they will be used to stimulate the production of new bone marrow. This procedure is known as an autologous stem cell transplant.


Being immunocompromised (having a weakened immune system) is a common complication of lymphoma. Even if your lymphatic system is restored to normal, many of the medications that treat lymphoma weaken your immune system.

This means you are more vulnerable to infections, and there is an increased risk of developing serious complications from infections. You may be advised to take regular doses of antibiotics to prevent infections occurring.

Report any symptoms of an infection to your GP or multidisciplinary team (MDT) immediately because prompt treatment may be needed to prevent serious complications.

Symptoms of infection include:

  • fever
  • headache
  • aching muscles
  • diarrhoea
  • tiredness

Also make sure that all of your vaccinations are up to date. Your GP or MDT will advise you on this.


Many of the treatments for lymphoma can cause infertility. Infertility is often temporary, but in some cases it may be a permanent side effect.

People who are particularly at risk of becoming infertile are those who have received very high doses of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Your MDT will estimate the risk of infertility in your specific circumstances.

It is sometimes possible to guard against any risk of infertility before beginning treatment. For example, men can store samples of their sperm, and women can store their eggs, which can be fertilised and placed back into the womb after treatment.

Medical Review: May 26, 2010

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