Steroid therapy for non-Hodgkin lymphoma
Steroids are substances made naturally in the body. They can also be produced artificially and used as an anti-inflammatory drug. The most commonly prescribed steroids for non-Hodgkin lymphoma are called corticosteroids.
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You may be given steroids to increase the effect of chemotherapy, help destroy the lymphoma, and treat any nausea or vomiting. Corticosteroids are usually taken in tablet form, but can also be given into a vein (intravenously).
Side effects of steroid therapy
Steroid therapy can cause various side effects, which depend on the dose prescribed and how long you have treatment. Most side effects are temporary and will gradually disappear after you stop taking the medicine.
When taken for a short period of time, steroids may cause an increased appetite, feelings of restlessness, trouble sleeping (insomnia), weight gain and mood changes.
If you need to take steroids for several months, you may experience a build-up of fluid in the body, high blood pressure and high blood glucose levels (which may lead to diabetes in some people). There is an increased risk of developing stomach ulcers, so your doctor should prescribe an anti-ulcerant drug while you are on steroid therapy. You may also be more likely to get infections and, over time, your skin, muscles and bones may weaken.
Speak to your doctor if you feel there are significant changes in your mood while you are taking corticosteroids. The doctor may adjust your dose or recommend you see a psychologist or psychiatrist for ways to help you cope with mood changes. Your treatment team can help you manage or reduce side effects, especially if they are causing you discomfort.
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Dr Ian Bilmon, Haematologist, Westmead and Sydney Adventist Hospitals; Dr Anne Capp, Radiation Oncologist, Calvary Mater Newcastle; Rachelle Frith, Clinical Nurse Consultant Haematology, Prince of Wales Hospital; Jason Gardner, Consumer; A/Prof Angela Hong, Radiation Oncologist, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, and Clinical Professor, The University of Sydney; Yvonne King, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; Samantha Rennie, Social Worker, Cancer Services, St George Hospital. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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