5 Treatment Options for Lymphoma

May 7th 2016

Every cancer treatment has its side effects, and the severity and mortality risk of lymphoma often mean that it requires very aggressive treatment. There are several options for treatment, but patients need to talk to their physicians, who will recommend the best courses of action for the patient's particular circumstances.

Chemotherapy

Using strong chemicals to kill cancer cells is harsh on the rest of the body, but it is one of the most common treatments for Hodgkin's lymphoma, as it is often effective in these cases, particularly when combined with radiotherapy. Hodgkin's lymphomas make up only around 10 percent of lymphoma cases, but non-Hodgkin's patients may also receive chemotherapy if their physicians think the nodes have progressed too far to be removed surgically or targeted with radiotherapy alone.

Radiotherapy

The use of high-energy X-rays focused on cancerous cells means that radiotherapy involves some risk of radiation side effects, including baldness and infertility. Unlike chemotherapy, however, the treatment itself is painless. Unfortunately, radiotherapy is only a possibility for relatively small tumors; the doses required to treat larger tumors can destroy the body's ability to make new blood cells. This is one of many reasons it's important to diagnose lymphomas early.

Immunological therapy

Drugs that boost the immune system or provide support to failing sections of it are used to help the body combat cancer growth. Ideally, the bolstered immune system then begins to destroy cancer cells using normal immunological processes. One way that the drugs help the body to do this is by binding to the exterior of cancer cells to encourage the body's immune system to attack them. Recent studies suggest that these types of drugs are particularly helpful for classical Hodgkin's lymphomas.

Stem Cell Transplantation

Stem cell transplantation can bolster radiation therapy because it allows the patient to tolerate ultra-high dosages of radiation. These can combat larger, more aggressive growths, but they are normally very dangerous, if not fatal, to the patient because they destroy bone marrow and prevent blood formation. Stem cell transplantation after radiotherapy, however, allows new cells to form and protects the patient from these effects.

Surgery

While only useful in a limited number of cases, removing the tumor at an early stage can help prevent the spread of lymphoma. This is the case particularly if the initial tumor is found outside the main lymphatic system, in the stomach, spleen or thyroid. Doctors normally do not use surgery to treat Hodgkin's lymphoma, though they may use a surgical biopsy to confirm diagnosis.

Conclusion

Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system and lymph nodes, comes in two forms: non-Hodgkin's and Hodgkin's. Many of the treatments advised for the condition are the same as those used to treat other forms of cancer.

Sources

MedicalNewsToday.com "What is lymphoma? Lymphoma causes, symptoms and treatments" http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/146136.php
NHS.uk "Hodgkin lymphoma - treatment" http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Hodgkins-lymphoma/Pages/Treatment.aspx
Cancer.gov "Adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma treatment" http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/adult-non-hodgkins/HealthProfessional/page1/AllPages
Cancer.org "Surgery for non-Hodgkin lymphoma" http://www.cancer.org/cancer/non-hodgkinlymphoma/detailedguide/non-hodgkin-lymphoma-treating-surgery

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