What are the Different Types of Lymphoma Treatment?

T. Carrier
T. Carrier

Lymphoma is one of the most common types of cancer, and it affects essential parts of the lymphatic system. When treating the condition, factors such as lymphoma type and patient condition determine which of the different treatment options will be used. The primary options include chemotherapy, radiology, immunotherapy, and cell transplant. Some forms of alternative lymphoma treatment also claim to be beneficial in removing toxic substances from the lymphatic system, promoting healing.

Two main types of lymphoma can occur in patients: Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s. The former has a higher rate of successful treatment and may produce no actual tumors. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma — which is itself divided into several subtypes — is generally more aggressive and is likely to spread past the lymphatic system. Most cases affect either B-cell or T-cell lymphocytes, which are disease-fighting white blood cells.

Chemotherapy is an intense drug treatment regimen used in many cancer treatments. It is often the main course of treatment in non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Several types of drugs may be used, such as bleomycin and prednisone. These treatments are strong and often hurt healthy cells as well as damaged cells, and thus the immune system is compromised during treatment. For this reason, chemotherapy patients must exercise caution and undergo treatments with rest periods in between each session.

Some drug treatments also directly attack tumors. Antibody drugs used in immunotherapy serve this function. They include rituximab and tositumomab. Antibodies are typically neutralized versions of a damaged cell or virus used to combat the active form. Immunotherapy is primarily used in more progressive forms of B-cell lymphoma and other non-Hodgkin's lymphoma types. These more aggressive treatments may be tempered for patients in poorer health and of advanced age.

Immunotherapy may be combined with another frequent lymphoma treatment protocol: radiation therapy. Like most of the other treatments, this method’s goal is the destruction of cancer cells. Unlike the drug-based treatments, however, radiation therapy relies on radioactive energy, such as that produced by X-rays. Radiation therapy functions best in lymphomas that have not spread past the lymphatic system, and as such are utilized in Hodgkin's lymphoma and early non-Hodgkin's lymphoma cases.

Medical professionals also utilize cells from the body in their quest to eliminate lymphoma. Stem cells are often useful for cancer treatments because they are essentially blank cells that can be activated into any type of cell in the body, including the blood cell types most damaged by lymphoma. Bone marrow transplants serve a similar function. Further, researchers are also modifying T-cells in the body to target and extinguish cancer cells. These treatments are often reserved for the most aggressive lymphomas, or lymphomas that have recurred.

Alternative medicine offers other, less frequent but possibly effective lymphoma treatment options. For example, Chinese therapies such as acupuncture and herbal medicine are sometimes used for pain management and inner body cleansing. Relaxation techniques like yoga can ease some of the harmful stress associated with a cancer diagnosis. Various diets and natural supplements can also achieve positive results.

Side effects from any cancer treatment can be harsh. Extreme nausea, fatigue, and susceptibility to infections are common, as are damage to the skin and hair for some treatments. A physician can thoroughly discuss all side effects and dangers with a patient before a treatment regimen begins. In many cases, effective lymphoma treatment will require a combination of approaches. The dedication of both physician and patient is crucial in any case.

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