Cancer is a word that most of us dread to hear from our doctors. We know that it’s something that should not be taken lightly, plus we can’t even count how many times we have seen in the movies and television about the difficulties of the disease and more often than not the sad ending that follows. So hearing you have cancer of the lymph cells, which what lymphoma really is, is more than enough to give you and your family a scare. Treating lymphoma is never easy both physically and mentally for the patient. Having the full support of the family is a good thing to have in situations like these.
Lymphoma develops when the lymph cells begin to multiply quickly beyond what is normal. This abnormal growth soon forms tumors. These lymph cells are found in blood and lymph nodes thus with the grown of the cancer cells it is only natural that the lymph nodes enlarge and manifests as painless lumps in the neck, armpits or groin.
There are two main types of lymphoma. The most common one is the Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This type is distinguished from the rest by the presence of the Reed-Sternberg cell. The spread of the cancer cells in Hodgkin’s lymphoma is more predictable and often quite limited unlike the non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas where cancer cells develop first in other organs before spreading into the lymph nodes. The non-Hodgkin’s types of lymphomas are classified according low-grade, intermediate-grade or high-grade lymphomas which basically is based on how quickly the cancer cells spread.
Because of the number of types of lymphomas, the treatments vary. Often the treatments are combinations of various therapies and procedures. It is normal to have a number of treatments for a single lymphoma case. Once the type of lymphoma has been diagnosed and identified, the next step is to determine what stage it is in now. The kinds and extent of treatment of the cancer is dependent on the age of the patient and the degree or stage of the lymphoma. The treatment methods are either through chemotherapy, radiation therapy, antibody therapy (or biological therapy) and bone-marrow or stem cell transplantation. Again, combining one or two of these treatment methods is possible to address the present condition of a patient.
Chemotherapy uses various drugs to kill the tumor or cancer cells. The drugs can be taken orally or through injection. The advantage of using chemotherapy is that the drugs do not cause that much damage to the nearby normal and healthy cells. Radiotherapy, on the other hand, uses X-rays to kill the tumor cells. The rays damage the DNA of the cancer cells and because the DNA is damaged the cancer cells are unable to multiply which halts that growth of the cancer. Nearby healthy cells are damaged from the radiation bombardment so the goal in radiotherapy is minimize the damage to nearby, healthy cells. That is why those who undergo radiotherapy is scheduled to receive small doses of radiation at a time to lessen the damage to the cells.
Another treatment is the antibody therapy which uses antibodies which target unique molecules of a cancer cell. This attack from the antibody will eventually kill the cancer cells. And finally, the last way of treating lymphoma is by bone marrow or stem cell transplantations. These are medical procedures where the stem cells that were destroyed by high doses of chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy are replaced through surgery.