Lymphoma Cancer Treatments & Surgery

OVERVIEW

Lymphoma is cancer that begins in cells of the lymph system. The lymph system is part of the immune system, which helps the body fight infection and disease. Because lymph tissue is found all through the body, lymphoma can begin almost anywhere.

The two main types of lymphoma are Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). These can occur in both children and adults.

Most people with Hodgkin lymphoma have the classic type. With this type, there are large, abnormal lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) in the lymph nodes called Reed-Sternberg cells. Hodgkin lymphoma can usually be cured.

There are many different types of NHL that form from different types of white blood cells (B-cells, T-cells, NK cells). Most types of NHL form from B-cells. NHL may be indolent (slow-growing) or aggressive (fast-growing). The most common types of NHL in adults are diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, which is usually aggressive, and follicular lymphoma, which is usually indolent.

Mycosis fungoides and the S├ęzary syndrome are types of NHL that start in white blood cells in the skin. Primary central nervous system lymphoma is a rare type of NHL that starts in white blood cells in the brain, spinal cord, or eye.

The treatment and the chance of a cure depend on the stage and the type of lymphoma.

Treatment

The treatment you get depends on what type of lymphoma you have and how far it has spread.

The main treatments for non-Hodgkin lymphoma are:

  • Chemotherapy. It uses drugs to kill cancer cells.
  • Radiation therapy. It uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells.
  • Immunotherapy. It uses your body's own immune system to attack cancer cells.

The main treatments for Hodgkin lymphoma are:


  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy

If these treatments don't work, you might have a stem cell transplant. First you'll get very high doses of chemotherapy. This treatment kills cancer cells, but it also destroys stem cells in your bone marrow that make new blood cells. After chemotherapy, you will get a transplant of stem cells to replace the ones that were destroyed.


Two types of stem cell transplants can be done:

  • An autologous transplant uses your own stem cells.
  • An allogeneic transplant uses stem cells taken from a donor.

Taking Care of Yourself

Lymphoma treatment can cause side effects. Talk to your medical team about ways to relieve any symptoms you have.

Also ask your doctor about changes to your diet and exercise that will help you feel better during your treatment. Ask a dietitian for help if you're not sure what types of food to eat. Exercises like walking or swimming can relieve fatigue and help you feel better during treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. You might also try alternative therapies like relaxation, biofeedback, or guided imagery to relieve pain.