Delta Medix Patient General Information

Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is cancer that begins in cells of the immune system. The immune system fights infections and other diseases. The lymphatic system is part of the immune system and includes lymph vessels, lymph fluid, lymph nodes, tonsils, thymus, and the spleen. Because lymphatic tissue is in many parts of the body, lymphoma can start almost anywhere. Usually, it is first found in a lymph node.

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma begins when a lymphocyte (usually a B cell) becomes abnormal. The abnormal cell divides to make copies of itself. The new cells divide again and again, making more and more abnormal cells. The abnormal cells do not die when they should, and do not protect the body from infections or other diseases. The buildup of extra cells often forms a mass of tissue called a growth or tumor.

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma can cause many symptoms

  • Swollen, painless lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, or groin
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fever
  • Soaking night sweats
  • Coughing, trouble breathing, or chest pain
  • Weakness and tiredness that does not go away
  • Pain, swelling, or a feeling of fullness in the abdomen

Most often, these symptoms are not due to cancer. Infections or other health problems may also cause these symptoms. Anyone with symptoms that do not go away within two weeks should see a doctor so that problems can be diagnosed and treated.

Treatment Options for Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

  • Watchful Waiting may be suggested for people with indolent lymphoma. People who choose watchful waiting put off having cancer treatment until they have symptoms. People with indolent lymphoma may not have problems that require cancer treatment for a long time. Sometimes the tumor may even shrink for a while without therapy. If you and your doctor agree that watchful waiting is a good idea, the doctor will check you regularly. You will receive treatment if symptoms occur or get worse.
  • Chemotherapy for lymphoma uses drugs to kill lymphoma cells. It is called systemic therapy because the drugs travel through the bloodstream. The drugs can reach lymphoma cells in almost all parts of the body. You may receive chemotherapy by mouth, through a vein (intravenously), or in the space around the spinal cord.
  • Biological Therapy is a type of treatment for people with certain types of Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Monoclonal antibodies are the type of biological therapy used for lymphoma. They are proteins made in the laboratory that can bind to cancer cells. They help the immune system to kill lymphoma cells.
  • Radiation Therapy uses high-energy rays to kill lymphoma cells. It can shrink tumors and help control pain. Two types of radiation therapy are used for people with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, external radiation and systemic radiation. External radiation uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. It affects cells only in the treated area. Systemic radiation is administered by injection of radioactive material that travels throughout the body. The radioactive material is bound to monoclonal antibodies that seek out lymphoma cells. The radiation destroys the lymphoma cells.
  • Stem Cell Transplant - If lymphoma returns after treatment, you may receive stem cell transplantation. A transplant of your own blood-forming stem cells allows you to receive high doses of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or both. The high doses destroy both lymphoma cells and healthy blood cells in the bone marrow. Stem cell transplants take place in the hospital. After you receive high-dose treatment, healthy blood-forming cells are given to you intravenously. New blood cells develop from the transplanted stem cells.

The stem cells may come from your own body or from a donor

  • Autologous Stem Cell Transplantation: This type of transplant uses your own stem cells. Your stem cells are removed before high-dose treatment. The cells may be treated to kill lymphoma cells that may be present. The stem cells are frozen and stored. After you receive high-dose treatment, the stored stem cells are thawed and returned to you.
  • Allogeneic Stem Cell Transplantation: This type of transplant uses healthy stem cells from a donor. Doctors use blood tests to be sure the donor’s cells match your cells.
  • Syngeneic Stem Cell Transplantation: This type of transplant uses stem cells from a patient’s healthy identical twin.