Lymphomas are cancers that develop in the lymphatic system -- the tissues and organs that produce, store, and carry white blood cells. The lymphatic system includes the bone marrow, spleen, thymus, lymph nodes, and a network of thin tubes that carry lymph and white blood cells to all the tissues of the body. Types of lymphoma include non-Hodgkin's, Hodgkin's, and cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.
In non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, the most common form of the disease, cells in the lymphatic system become abnormal. They divide and grow without any order or control, or old cells that should die, don't. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma can begin or spread to almost any part of the body.
In Hodgkin's disease, cells in the lymphatic system also become abnormal, but the cancer tends to spread in an orderly way from one group of lymph nodes to the next. Eventually, it can spread almost anywhere.
In cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, T-lymphocytes (infection fighting white blood cells) become cancerous, causing skin problems.
Signs and Symptoms
Lymphoma is accompanied by the following signs and symptoms, by type:
Non-Hodgkin's and Hodgkin's:
Who's Most At Risk?
People with the following conditions or characteristics are at risk of developing lymphoma, by type:
What to Expect at Your Provider's Office
If you are having symptoms of lymphoma, your health care provider will carefully check for swelling or lumps in the neck, underarms, and groin. If the lymph nodes don't feel normal, your doctor will perform a biopsy. The doctor will remove a small piece of the lymph node -- or, in the case of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, a growth from the skin -- and a pathologist will examine the tissue under a microscope to check for cancer cells.
If you have cancer, your doctor will do more tests to find out if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body (staging). This may involve blood and bone marrow tests, computed tomography (CT) scans, positron emission tomography scans (PET), cobmination PET/CT scans, and, possibly, a laparotomy, in which the doctor cuts into the abdomen and checks the organs for cancer.
Your doctor will develop a treatment plan based on the diagnosis, the stage of the disease, the size of the tumor, and your general health and age.
Your health care provider may prescribe the following drug therapies:
Hodgkin's and Non-Hodgkin's:
Surgical and Other Procedures
Patients sometimes receive bone marrow transplantation and peripheral blood stem cell transplantation. Researchers are testing the effectiveness of radioimmunotherapy, a treatment with a radioactive substance linked to an antibody that will attach to the tumor when injected into the body. A surgeon may also remove the tumor.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Lymphoma requires conventional medical management. A comprehensive treatment plan for lymphoma may include a range of complementary and alternative (CAM) therapies. Be sure to ask your team of health care providers about the best ways to incorporate these therapies into your overall treatment plan. Some CAM therapies may interact negatively with conventional medical Lymphoma interventions. Always tell your health care providers about any supplements you are taking.
Improved relaxation and decreased stress, through activities such as guided imagery, tai chi, yoga, and meditation are helpful in promoting a sense of well being. Intimacy and support from others helps promote a positive and empowering attitude.
Nutrition and Supplements
These nutritional tips may help reduce symptoms. Many herbs and supplements can interact negatively with conventional cancer medications and new research about such reactions is ongoing. While supplements may be helpful, it's important to work with knowledgeable provider and inform your doctors about any supplements you're using or considering using.
You may address nutritional deficiencies with the following supplements:
Herbs can potentially be an important part of an integrated cancer plan, but they should only be prescribed by a knowledgeable health care provider who is in communication with all of your other doctors.
Although few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic therapies, professional homeopaths may consider the following remedies for the treatment of gastritis symptoms (such as nausea and vomiting) based on their knowledge and experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account your constitutional type -- your physical, emotional, and psychological makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate treatment for you individually.
Homeopathy may help reduce symptoms and strengthen overall constitution and may help decrease the side effects of chemotherapy.
Contrast hydrotherapy may help enhance immune function and facilitate the transport of nutrients and waste products. End hot showers with 1 - 2 minutes of cold water spray. Since hydrotherapy stimulates lymphatic flow, talk to your physician first before beginning and hydrotherapy regimen.
Acupuncture may help strengthen immunity and detoxification. It may also reduce the side effects of chemotherapy. For many patients and physicians, acupuncture has become one of the most widely used alternative interventions in cancer treatment. Unlike botanicals and nutrients, acupuncture works without ingesting substances so possible interactions with cancer treatments is unlikely.
Prognosis varies depending on the type and stage of lymphoma. Survival rates for Stage I and II non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and Hodgkin's lymphoma are very high. Cure rates as high as 75 -80% are now possible with appropriate initial therapy.
Potential complications include the following:
Once you are in remission, it is essential that you be checked for signs of relapse on a regular basis.
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Review Date: 6/29/2012
Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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