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Treating Lymphoma: The Various Procedures

Cancer is a word that most of us dread to hear from our doctors. We know that its something that should not be taken lightly, plus we cant 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-Hodgkins 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.


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Coping with Lymphoma During and After Treatment

When a person is diagnosed with a condition known as lymphoma, his life should evolve in more than just having laboratory tests and deciding what treatment to take. During the entire course of the treatment and several years following its completion, there are many other issues that would come and go, like coping with side effects from treatments, possible remission and relapse, understanding the concepts of disease response, and arranging for necessary funding for the treatment. The immediate family of the patient should also readily provide support in any form other than financial. The issues should be immediately understood and addressed.

Remember that lymphoma treatment could be long and very complicated. Every type of treatment (radiation, chemotherapy, stem cell transplantation, and antibodies) could bring about its own complications and issues. There are known side effects of taking such lymphoma treatments. They include hair loss, fatigue, weakness, loss of appetite, sore mouth, and sore skin. Red blood and white blood count could also fall as such cells could also be killed along with cancer cells during treatment. In some cases, there is nausea, vomiting, and difficulty or pain in swallowing and drinking.

For the financial aspect, understand that lymphoma treatment could be significantly expensive. Several treatments and drugs may be covered under health insurances and government grants but still overall costs could be high. The patient could opt to take financial aid from the government specifically granted to cancer patients. There are even non-government organizations that provide financial support to lymphoma and other cancer patients.

The patient should understand treatment response as well as survival. When treatment is completed, the doctors should immediately assess treatment response. Once all diseases seem to have already disappeared, the patient has had a complete response. He is in a stage of remission. When the disease reappears in the future, there is a condition called a relapse. The patient should very well understand the possibility for both remission and relapse. The doctor should explain each very carefully to the patient.

There are issues following the lymphoma treatment. Patients who win the initial battle against the disease should still expect significant issues in the coming years. Lymphoma and the treatments used have long-term effects. The survivors battle is not yet over after complete recovery. In the coming years after the treatment, these could still be expected: cancer-related fatigue, infertility, memory problems, and possible heart damages.

Lastly, the lymphoma patient should not feel alone. The patient needs to feel that his battle against the disease is not fought by him alone. Moral and emotional support could be important. The family members and the loved ones of the patient could take significant roles in supporting the affected individual. Some people fail to recognize the fact that recovery from lymphoma goes beyond mere monetary expenses. Physical recovery from the disease should be complemented by emotional and mental recovery. In this aspect, making the patient feel loved and supported by people around him would definitely help.


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Asking Your Doctor about Lymphoma

Lymphoma simply means cancer of the lymphatic system. However, as simple as it sounds the disease is quite complex. So it is only natural to begin asking your doctor about lymphoma right from the start. But it is essential that you ask the right questions as well. Never be shy about asking questions that you think sounds stupid. Your future health is on the line so it is imperative that you be properly informed.

We often ask our doctors what causes lymphoma. Unfortunately, the answer to this question remains to be a big fat unknown. Doctors and scientists have yet to identify the singular cause of the cancer. However, what they were able to do was identify the different risk factors involve that might affect the development of lymphoma. It seems that prolong exposure to hazardous chemicals, herbicides, pesticides and even drugs that suppress the bodys immune system have been tied to the high chances of developing cancer of the lymphatic system. Avoiding these situations would be a good life choice or at the very least if you work in the industry where handling chemicals or pesticides are necessary you should take the necessary precautions to protect our bodies from harm.

You need to ask your doctor what type of lymphoma you have. There are two kinds: the Hodgkin’s lymphoma which is immediately identifiable under the microscope due to the presence of a particular cell. This is actually the most common kind of lymphoma. The rest of the cases that dont adhere to the conditions and appearance of Hodgkins lymphoma are simply classified as non Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Even though they have similarities, the two kinds of lymphoma use slightly different treatment procedures which are why it is important that your doctors are able to identify what kind you have.

How far the disease has spread and how serious is the condition? This is another pertinent information before treatment is implemented. There are basically four stages of lymphoma development. The first stage is where the cancer cells are just in one part of your body so far. At this stage the cancer cells are isolated in at least one lymph node. The second stage is more complex for the cancer cells are in two or more lymph nodes or regions. The cancer cells are located either above or below the diaphragm. This stage is also referred to as “locally advanced disease.”

The next stage is the advance disease which is the third stage already. The cancer cells at this point are already on both sides of the diaphragm. The final stage or stage four means the cancer cells have already spread to other parts of the body.

The next series of questions would be concerning the treatment. What are the treatment recommendations and what are the procedures for the treatment. There are a number of treatment options available. Among them is biologic therapy which uses methods like monoclonal antibodies, radioimmunotherapy, interleukin 2 and vaccines that boost the bodys capability of protecting itself from lymphoma. Other treatments include the conventional chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Asking your doctor about lymphoma means to get all the information about the disease in order for you to be prepared physically, mentally and psychologically on the next steps that you would need to undergo.


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