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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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The Essence of PET Scans in Determining and Healing Lymphoma

The Essence of PET Scans in Determining and Healing Lymphoma

The malignant cells that cause lymphoma begin at the lymph nodes. Tumor develops when there is an enlargement of the node. The case is quite similar to lymphoid leukemia, but this only involves the bone marrow where the blood cells are produced through the haematopoesis process as well as the circulating blood.

The first description of this dreaded disease was first published in 1832. This was done by Thomas Hodgkin, thus the name of the Hodgkin type of this illness. There are many other forms that have been discovered since then and all these are now part of a large group of illnesses that are known as hematological neoplasms.

When you start feeling that you have the symptoms, especially the enlarged lymph nodes, you should seek the help of your doctor. This case may not always mean that you are sick, but to make sure that you are okay, you have to get yourself checked by a professional. The first step that doctors may require you to undergo is biopsy, the type of which will be dictated as to the organs that are infected with the disease. After it was established that you already have it, the doctors will then try to categorize from which type of this illness you are suffering from. Before you can be given proper treatment for your condition, your bone marrow needs to be tested and you have to go through various tests and scans.

PET Scans

One of the special kinds of scans that you may be asked to undergo is PET scan or Positron Emission Tomography. This is able to determine the cancers based on the high activity that is happening on the cancer cell.

Other types of scans provide different results. For example, MR type and CT scans present good quality photographs of the various body parts where you can view the masses of tumors and swollen nodes. The problem with these scans is the fact that doctors cannot based their findings whether a person has the illness based on the size and shape of what was photographed through these processes. This is what PET scans are able to fill in the blanks.

PET scans are useful in the procedure because these are used to map out the disease on a person’s body. Along with the other kinds of tests, all results can be used to determine the stages of the disease. This is also able to find out if the lump that showed up on other tests, is cancerous or not. After the condition was settled, the doctor can then proceed to give the necessary treatment, whether you need to go through chemotherapy or it will be best to undergo radiation.

After some cycles of chemotherapy, you have to go through the same scans and it will help to assess how well your body is responding to it. When the treatment has been done, you still have to go through PET scans to know whether the lump still has cancer cells, scar tissue or it has already been healed.


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Some Side Effects of Lymphoma Treatment

Lymphoma is cancer of the lymphatic system. Like other cancers, lymphoma can be treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy among with other methods like antibody treatment and even through bone marrow transplants. And just like any other type of cancer, there are some notable side effects of lymphoma treatments.

Treating cancer is rather toxic to the body. Cancer cells multiply in an abnormal rate. This rate of growth produces a mass of tissue which becomes a tumor. When left alone the cancer cells eventually suffocate the healthy cells nearby and shut down their functions. Whole organs can shut down completely which obviously means death to that person. Eradicating these cancer cells is the key element in cancer treatment procedures. However, the overall goal of cancer treatments is to destroy cancer cells without killing the normal and healthy cells nearby.

Chemotherapy is a common method of killing those cancer cells. This treatment uses various drugs to eliminate the cells. However, the drugs still affect some of the healthy cells. Among the more common side effects of the treatment in lymphoma patients includes decreased blood cell production, diarrhea, fatigue, mouth sores and hair loss. Decreased in blood production includes the normal red blood cells, the white blood cells and even the platelets. Some patients also reported feelings of nausea after the treatment. And because the drugs used for the treatment can also harm the production of sperm and egg cells, it is a medical fact that the treatment can indeed cause temporary or even permanent sterility of patients.

Instead of drugs, radiation therapy uses x-rays to kill the cells. But just like chemotherapy, the use of high energy x-rays can kill the neighboring healthy cells. Common side effects of this treatment include feeling tired all the time like all your energy was drained out of your body. Hair loss and nausea are also common problems when patients undergo radiation therapy. But hair loss is limited to areas where the treatment is actually targeted. Nausea and skin changes like getting red or itching are other known side effects.

Some treatments use steroids to control the growth of the cells. This is actually quite common and is used alongside other treatments. Steroids such as cortisone, prednisone and dexamethasone can cause insomnia, increased appetite, mood swings or changes and weight gain. The good thing about steroid treatment is that it is not used for long periods so the side effects are actually not strongly felt.

To counteract the side effects of lymphoma treatment, doctors suggests that you drink a lot of water before your treatment especially if you will undergo chemotherapy. If you experience mouth sores, a good way to provide some comfort is by drinking milk and cream. Juices especially tomato and citrus juices are not a good idea when you have numerous sores in your mouth. It has been suggested that you eat several small meal portions during the day instead of eating full size meals.

Remember that your immune system at this point is compromised because of your low blood count so it would be advisable to stay away from crowded areas and people that are sick. Ask your doctors for other ways to lessen the side effects.


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Knowing Your Cancer, How Lymphoma Spreads

These are some facts according to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society: 19.5 out of every 100,000 people in the world develop Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma while 2.8 out of every 100,000 people in the world are diagnosed with Hodgkins disease. Hodgkins disease and Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma are two of the main classifications of lymphoma, a cancer of the bodys lymph system. The lymph system, being part of our immune system, is tasked to eliminate bacteria, diseases and infection from our body. But when the cells multiply abnormally, tumors begin to appear in the lymph nodes. You can feel these as lumps in the nodes of the neck, armpit and groin. Soon the cancer cells will spread in other parts of the body, how lymphoma spreads is a good thing to know.

Metastasis. This is a word we often hear in cancer patients. This is actually a term which refers to the spreading of cancer to the rest of the body. Lymphoma at first is a single tumor in one of the many lymph nodes of the body. What happens when the cancer cells undergo metastasis is that cancer-infected cells break away from the main tumor and moves to another part of the body. The cancer cells use the bloodstream to move from one area of the body to another. The cancer cell can attach itself to another lymph node or to other organs of the body. When it fastened firmly, the cells reproduce again until it creates another mass of tissue to form as a tumor. Then the whole process repeats itself.

For lymphoma, the cancer cells use the lymphatic system of the body to spread. The lymphatic system of the body is pretty much like the bloodstream, it is spread although out the body since it is responsible for keeping the body clean from infections and diseases. The lymphatic system is an open canal where cancer cells can travel and create more tumors.

The tumors are pretty deadly. Because of the accelerated rate of growth, these cancer cells can continue to make the tumors grow. Soon enough the tumors grow large enough that the healthy tissues or organs are prevented to function normally. Eventually the healthy tissues or organs will stop functioning which spells death to the person.

Like any cancer, lymphoma has also a number of stages. These stages describe the severity of the condition and indicate how far the cancer cells have infected the body. Stage I is the first stage of the cancer. At this level, the cancer cells have only infected one lymph node or one part of the body. Because it is still developing, this stage is also referred to as the early disease.

The second stage or Stage II is far more alarming. At this point the cancer cells have metastasis and have infected another one or even more lymph nodes or parts of the body. However, at Stage II the infection is limited to either above or below the persons diaphragm. This stage is called locally advanced disease.

Stage III is known as the advanced disease. The cancer cells at this stage have found its way on both sides of the diaphragm and have established a number of tumors in those areas. The final stage or Stage IV or widespread disease is described by spread of the cancer cells to one or more of the bodys organs such as the bone, skin, liver or lungs.

This is how lymphoma spreads. That is why it is important for an early detection of the disease for proper and effective treatment.


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