Know more about the standard treatment methods and options open to those diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma or NHL is one of the most common forms of cancer in the United States, and accounts for around 4 percent of all the cancer cases. Cancer, in simple terms, occurs when there is an abnormal, out of control growth of the cells in your body. The cancerous cells can start to grow in almost any part of the body as well as spread to the other areas. The cancer that begins in lymphocytes, i.e., cells that are a part of your immune system, is termed as lymphoma. These lymphocytes are located in the lymphoid tissues such as bone marrow and spleen, and in the lymph nodes. There are two main types of lymphomas; Hodgkin’s disease and non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL). The distinction between these two lymphomas is only made once the cancer cells are examined because they may cause similar symptoms.
In the United States, non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is much more common than Hodgkin’s disease in both men and women. According to the American Cancer Society estimates, around 72,600 new cases of NHL, including children as well as adults, will be diagnosed in 2016. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can either be aggressive or indolent, and the treatment methods of both these are very different. Follicular lymphoma, marginal zone lymphoma, and lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma are examples of indolent NHL, while diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, anaplastic large cell lymphoma, and T-cell lymphoma are some types of aggressive NHL.
The symptoms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma generally include fever, weight loss, swelling in the lymph nodes, night sweats, and fatigue. When you experience any of these symptoms over a period of time, it is recommended that you consult your doctor immediately. The doctor will then examine the body, and conduct certain tests like flow cytometry and lymph node biopsy, to diagnose non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Once you are diagnosed with NHL, there are some more tests that are conducted to find out the stage of the cancer as well as the type of the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Standard Treatment Methods
There are various factors that play an important role in your prognosis as well as in the selection of the treatment method used. These factors are the type of NHL, your age, your overall health, the stage of the cancer, and whether it is a recurrent malady. Chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and radiotherapy are the standard treatment methods for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Sometimes, surgery or stem cell transplant may also be used in certain cases to treat NHL.
This type of cancer treatment makes use of drugs to stop the growth of the cancerous cells, either by stopping their division or by killing the cells. Chemotherapy is the primary treatment that is used to treat non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and it works by destroying the cancer cells in your lymph organs, lymph nodes, and your bone marrow. When the drugs are taken orally or injected directly into a vein, so that the drug can reach the cancer cells throughout your body, it is termed as systemic chemotherapy. Another way to use chemotherapy is to place the drug directly in an organ (regional chemotherapy) or into the cerebrospinal fluid (intrathecal chemotherapy). The form of chemotherapy that is used to treat your NHL depends upon the stage as well as the type of the lymphoma. Sometimes, you may also be given steroid drugs when you are on chemotherapy to reduce the inflammation in the body. The side effects of using chemotherapy include fatigue, constipation, loss of appetite, hair loss, nausea, vomiting, and decreased heart function.
Radiation therapy is a type of cancer treatment method that makes use of high energy beams or radiation to kill the cancer cells. The external beam radiation therapy is generally used for the treatment of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In this form of radiation therapy, a machine outside the body destroys the cancer cells by sending high energy beams to the targeted location. If you are scheduled for a stem cell transplant, you may be given a total body irradiation, which is external radiation directed at your entire body. Depending upon the type of NHL, the radiation therapy is either used in combination with chemotherapy or given after it. Some of the side effects associated with radiation therapy include mild skin reactions and fatigue, but most of these disappear as soon as the treatment is finished.
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