New treatments can mean full recovery from lymphoma

 

crutchfieldsquareDr. Crutchfield, my neighbor told me his cousin was diagnosed with lymphoma. What is lymphoma?

Lymphoma is a type of cancer. It is a cancer of white blood cells, called lymphocytes.

Lymphocytes are important immune cells that protect and fight off infections. Lymphocytes are found in the blood, lymph nodes, thymus, spleen and bone marrow. Lymphoma can affect these sites and other areas and organs in the body.  Some get lymphoma and leukemia confused. In leukemia, the cancer cells come mainly from the bone marrow and blood, while in lymphoma the cancer comes from lymphocytes associated with lymph nodes.

The type of lymphoma is dependent on the type of lymphocyte that is cancerous, but in general they are classified as either Hodgkin’s Lymphoma or Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. There are tests doctors can use to determine the exact type of lymphoma. The disease course, treatment options, and prognosis are dependent on the specific type of lymphoma, so an accurate diagnosis is essential for the best outcome.

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Causes

There are several possible linkages and causes for lymphoma including specific viral infections, toxic chemical exposures, some genetic diseases, certain auto-immune diseases, and medical treatments including radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

 

Symptoms

Symptoms include swelling of the lymph nodes, especially in the neck, armpit or groin, which occurs without pain. Also fatigue, night sweats, severe fever and chills, decreased appetite, and sudden and dramatic unexplained loss of weight might occur. So remember, if you have any of these symptoms, please see your physician.

 

Treatments  

The best lymphoma treatment depends on the type of lymphoma being treated, how fast it is progressing and affecting activities of daily living, and the patient’s preference of treatments.

Some lymphomas are very slow growing and may simply be followed with regular doctor visits and no treatment for many years. Some skin lymphomas (e.g. cutaneous T-cell lymphoma) may be treated with phototherapy (special light) treatments and topical medications only.

For other symptomatic lymphomas, treatments may include any combination of chemotherapy, radiation treatments, biological therapy medications, or stem cell transplants.

Depending on the type of lymphoma a patient has, a doctor will design the best treatment program for them. Although not all lymphomas have a happy ending, with many of the new and combination treatments, in many cases a full recovery and remission is certainly not out of the question.

 

Charles E. Crutchfield III, MD is a board certified dermatologist and Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School. He also has a private practice in Eagan, MN. He has been selected as one of the top 10 dermatologists in the U.S. by Black Enterprise magazine and one of the top 21 African American physicians in the U.S. by the Atlanta Post. Dr. Crutchfield is an active member of the Minnesota Association of Black Physicians, MABP.org.