Aims of treatment

Treatment for lymphoma either aims to control the disease or to cure it. This page explains what remission means and how it's different from cure.

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Aims of treatment

Remission

Remission and cure

The aim of lymphoma treatment

The aim of most lymphoma treatments is to send your lymphoma into remission: to reduce or eliminate it. There are different types of remission, depending how much your lymphoma has been reduced:

  • complete remission, where there is no visible evidence of lymphoma in test results
  • partial remission, where the lymphoma has been reduced by at least half but some lymphoma is still present in your body.

Sometimes doctors talk about ‘good partial remissions’ or ‘remission with residual abnormality' (some disease leftover) to describe different degrees of response to treatment.

For some types of lymphoma, treatment aims to send the lymphoma into complete remission. Your doctor might not use the word 'cure' because they can't always be certain that your lymphoma won't relapse (come back).

For other types of lymphoma, treatment aims to send the lymphoma into partial remission.

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Am I likely to go into remission?

Doctors treat most people with the following types of lymphoma with the aim of sending the lymphoma into complete remission:

For most people with these types of lymphoma, the disease will never relapse after successful treatment. 

If you have low-grade non-Hodgkin lymphoma, your lymphoma is likely to respond well to treatment. A complete remission, however, is less likely with low-grade lymphoma than with other types of lymphoma. The slow-growing cells in low-grade lymphomas are harder to get rid of completely because cancer treatments usually target fast-growing cells.

Doctors usually treat low-grade lymphoma with an aim to send the lymphoma into as good a remission as possible. If you have a good remission, you are likely to have a longer time before your lymphoma relapses. You might need treatment from time-to-time to control your lymphoma.

In our personal stories section, people with lymphoma have shared their stories, including:

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What is the difference between ‘complete remission’ and ‘cure’?

Your doctor might prefer to say you are ‘in complete remission’ rather than ‘cured’ if there is no evidence of lymphoma in your body. This is because your doctor can’t say for certain that your lymphoma won’t relapse (come back). There might be a tiny amount of lymphoma left in your body that can’t be detected using available techniques. However, the longer you have been in remission, the less likely your lymphoma is to relapse (come back). Some doctors say you have been cured if you stay in remission for a long time, usually at least 5 years.

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Further reading

Related content

Support groups

Our support groups offer a safe environment where people can help each other through the day to day issues of living with and beyond lymphoma.

Buddy service

Our Buddy service can connect you with other people who have a personal experience of lymphoma.