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Adult Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment (PDQ®)

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Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma During Pregnancy

General Information About NHL During Pregnancy

Non-Hodgkin lymphomas (NHLs) occur more frequently than Hodgkin lymphoma in an older population. This age difference may account for fewer reports of NHL in pregnant patients.[1]

Stage Information for NHL During Pregnancy

To avoid exposure to ionizing radiation, magnetic resonance imaging is the preferred tool for staging evaluation.[2] (Refer to the Stage Information for Adult NHL section of this summary for more information.)

Treatment Option Overview for NHL During Pregnancy

Table 5. Treatment Options for NHL During Pregnancy
Stage Standard Treatment Options
Indolent NHL During Pregnancy Delay treatment until after delivery
Aggressive NHL During Pregnancy Immediate therapy
Early delivery, when feasible
Termination of pregnancy

Indolent NHL During Pregnancy

Treatment may be delayed for those women with an indolent NHL.

Aggressive NHL During Pregnancy

Immediate therapy

According to anecdotal case series, most NHLs in pregnant patients are aggressive, and delay of therapy until after delivery appears to have poor outcomes.[1,3-5] Consequently, some investigators favor immediate therapy, even during pregnancy.[5] In a review of 121 patient case reports from 74 papers, one-half of the patients had very aggressive lymphomas, such as Burkitt lymphoma, and one-half of the patients had involvement of the breast, ovaries, uterus, or placenta.[6] One-half of the patients received therapy antepartum, and the 6-month survival was reported at 53%, with a live-birth rate of 83%.[6][Level of evidence: 3iiiDiv]

Early delivery when feasible

For some women, early delivery, when feasible, may minimize or avoid exposure to chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Termination of pregnancy

Termination of pregnancy in the first trimester may be an option that allows immediate therapy for women with aggressive NHL.

Evidence (treatment effect on children exposed in utero):

  • With follow-up ranging from several months to 11 years, children who were exposed to high-dose doxorubicin-containing combination chemotherapy in utero (especially during the second and third trimester) have been found to be normal.[5,7-9] For most of the chemotherapeutic agents used for the treatment of NHL, there are no data regarding long-term effects on children exposed in utero.


  1. Ward FT, Weiss RB: Lymphoma and pregnancy. Semin Oncol 16 (5): 397-409, 1989. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Nicklas AH, Baker ME: Imaging strategies in the pregnant cancer patient. Semin Oncol 27 (6): 623-32, 2000. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Steiner-Salz D, Yahalom J, Samuelov A, et al.: Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma associated with pregnancy. A report of six cases, with a review of the literature. Cancer 56 (8): 2087-91, 1985. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Spitzer M, Citron M, Ilardi CF, et al.: Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma during pregnancy. Gynecol Oncol 43 (3): 309-12, 1991. [PUBMED Abstract]
  5. Gelb AB, van de Rijn M, Warnke RA, et al.: Pregnancy-associated lymphomas. A clinicopathologic study. Cancer 78 (2): 304-10, 1996. [PUBMED Abstract]
  6. Horowitz NA, Benyamini N, Wohlfart K, et al.: Reproductive organ involvement in non-Hodgkin lymphoma during pregnancy: a systematic review. Lancet Oncol 14 (7): e275-82, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  7. Avilés A, Díaz-Maqueo JC, Torras V, et al.: Non-Hodgkin's lymphomas and pregnancy: presentation of 16 cases. Gynecol Oncol 37 (3): 335-7, 1990. [PUBMED Abstract]
  8. Moore DT, Taslimi MM: Multi-agent chemotherapy in a case of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in second trimester of pregnancy. J Tenn Med Assoc 84 (9): 435-6, 1991. [PUBMED Abstract]
  9. Nantel S, Parboosingh J, Poon MC: Treatment of an aggressive non-Hodgkin's lymphoma during pregnancy with MACOP-B chemotherapy. Med Pediatr Oncol 18 (2): 143-5, 1990. [PUBMED Abstract]
  • Updated: February 13, 2015