treatment depends on its type. It also depends on how advanced the cancer is.
Some slow-growing lymphomas may not need treatment for many years. These
cancers are followed with a watch-and-wait approach. Treatment isn’t started
until they become symptomatic.
aggressive cancers may require intense treatment. This usually involves a
one of the main treatments for lymphoma. It uses high-energy beams to destroy
tumors. The energy is carefully focused on target areas to kill cancer cells.
The goal is to minimize damage to healthy tissues. Whole-body radiation can
also be used to destroy tumor, normal, and stem cells before a transplant.
radiation treatments are fairly rapid. However, it usually has to be done five
days a week for several weeks.
procedure itself is painless. However, it can cause side effects including:
- skin changes, like sunburn
- dry mouth
may also increase the side effects of chemotherapy. The treatments are often
used together for more aggressive cancers.
long-term, radiation may increase the risk of developing other cancers. It can
also cause damage to nearby organs.
is an important part of lymphoma treatment. It involves the use of anti-cancer
drugs. They are usually infused directly into the bloodstream. This is
especially helpful when tumors may have spread throughout the body. Radiation
is impractical under such circumstances.
may also be injected directly into the cerebrospinal fluid. This is done to
treat brain and spinal cord tumors. Such therapy is called intrathecal chemo.
is usually given in cycles. Each treatment usually takes an hour or more.
Usually, treatment will be given for several days in a row. That is followed by
a rest period. Most people receive multiple cycles of treatment.
two or more drugs are used in each cycle. This maximizes overall effectiveness.
Using multiple drugs means cancer cells are attacked in a number of different
ways. In addition, some drugs work better together than on their own. This
effect is called synergism. Using several drugs in lower doses also has another
benefit. It helps reduce potential side effects, without sacrificing
effectiveness. In addition, it reduces the risk of drug resistance.
targets and destroys cells that are dividing quickly. This is a defining
characteristic of all cancers. However, certain healthy cells also divide
rapidly. These include:
- hair follicle cells
- bone marrow cells
- cells lining the mouth and
As a result,
these tissues are affected by chemo drugs. This accounts for the side effects
of chemo that include:
- hair loss
- nausea and vomiting
- mouth sores
- loss of appetite
- increased susceptibility to
infection risk are increased because new blood cells are made in the bone
marrow. Red blood cells deliver oxygen to help keep you energetic. White blood
cells help to fight infection.
includes several new technologies. These harness the body’s own immune system
to identify and destroy cancerous cells.
are the targeting proteins of the immune system. Drug companies have developed
man-made antibodies that bind to lymphoma cells. These antibodies can be used
to target radiation or chemotherapy to the cells. They can also be used to
attack the cells directly. Examples include:
(IFNs) are proteins used to slow the growth of cancer cells. The three major
types of interferons are alpha, beta, and gamma. These proteins are normally
produced by white blood cells to help fight infection. Man-made interferon can
shrink or halt the growth of some lymphomas.
It may be given in addition to chemo.
is rarely used because of its side effects. These include:
- weight loss
- flu-like symptoms
- general weakness
- dry mouth
weaken or “modulate” certain aspects of the immune system. How they treat
lymphoma is not yet understood. The two drugs in this class are thalidomide and
drugs are usually only used after other treatments have failed. Their side
effects can be severe. They include:
- serious blood clots
- painful nerve damage
- severe constipation
also cause birth defects. They must never be given to pregnant women.
Stem Cell Transplants
transplants are infrequently used to treat lymphoma. However, the use of this
technique is gradually increasing. Transplants may be appropriate when a
patient is in remission and the disease is no longer active. They may also be
used if there is a relapse during treatment.
two main types of stem cell transplants.
transplants use a donor’s stem cells. These can be collected from the:
- bone marrow
- circulating blood
- umbilical cord blood
This type of
stem cell transplant is of limited value. It can be hard to find a good donor.
There is also the potential for serious side effects.
cell transplants make use of a patient’s own cells. Stem cells are harvested
from the bone marrow or peripheral blood. This avoids side effects related to
compatibility. Unfortunately, it is only feasible if the patient’s disease has
not spread to the bone marrow or blood.
blood can be treated to remove lymphoma cells. However, there is always a risk
of reintroducing cancerous cells.
years, several promising new treatments have emerged. Participating in a
clinical trial can be a good option for people with treatment-resistant
important to remember these trials are research studies. They are not
necessarily safe for all patients. Clinical trials may provide enormous
benefits. However, they can also pose harmful side effects. The risks should be
carefully considered beforehand.
treatments for lymphoma are currently being investigated.
therapy is a type of immunotherapy. It teaches your immune system to fight
cancer cells. It is similar to a vaccine for a disease. However, the vaccine
uses proteins found on your cancer cells. In addition, this type of vaccine is
aimed at reducing existing cancer. It’s not a form of prevention.
vaccines are investigational treatments. They are not yet widely available.
With Stem Cell Transplant
treatment is usually used when less invasive treatments do not work. High-dose
chemotherapy is used to aggressively attack cancer cells. However, treatment
damages stem cells. Therefore, it’s followed with a stem cell transplant.
insurance companies consider this to be an experimental treatment. It can be