Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects your lymphatic system, which includes your lymph nodes, spleen, tonsils, and bone marrow. Your lymphatic system helps your body fight off disease and it is made up of white blood cells called lymphocytes.
There are many different types of lymphoma, and your course of treatment will depend on which type of lymphoma you are affected by. Treatment will also depend on which stage of lymphoma you are in, which is determined by how many areas are affected by the lymphoma. Here is a look at some of the most common treatments for the condition.
There are many different chemotherapy drugs to choose from. This form of treatment works to kill all cancer cells and reduce the size of cancer tumors. The downside to chemotherapy is that it will also kill healthy cells and cause side effects such as mouth sores, hair loss, and nausea.
This type of treatment is more targeted towards the exact area where the lymphoma is located. It works by using radiation, a form of high energy X-rays, to kill cancer cells in the area.
This type of therapy works to increase your body’s natural ability to fight cancer by boosting your immune system. There are several different ways to do this. The first is by using monoclonal antibodies. These are medications, such as Rituxan, which will directly target cancer cells while leaving normal cells unharmed.
Another option is radioimmunotherapy, which is similar to Rituxan, except these medications also have a radioisotope attached to them, which allows them to attach directly to the cancer cells. Interlukin 2 is a drug that activates the immune system, which gives it more power to kill the cancer cells on its own.
Finally, vaccines are an option to help the body protect itself against the lymphoma.
Stem Cell Transplants
Often, before chemotherapy or radiation begins, stem cells will be harvested using a special machine. They might be taken from your own bone marrow, or from the bone marrow of a close relative. This is done because chemotherapy will sometimes destroy your bone marrow along with the lymphoma cells. So, in order for you to be able to make new healthy cells, the stem cells will be transplanted into the body after chemotherapy is complete.
There are always research studies going on testing experimental medications for different types of lymphoma. Often, these clinical trials are the only way that patients are able to receive and try new treatments, since they are not otherwise available. These trials can be risky though, since these medications are not yet approved for treatment. Additionally, since placebos are usually used, there is no guarantee that you will be one of the patients who is actually receiving the medication.
Sometimes immediate treatment is not necessary if your lymphoma is not producing any symptoms and is slow-growing. In these cases, doctors will likely recommend keeping a watchful eye on your lymphoma to determine when it is large enough to require treatment.