What is Lymphoma?
Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer wherein there is an unregulated production of a kind of white blood cells called lymphocytes. These abnormal lymphocytes, instead of undergoing destruction by the body’s auto-correct mechanisms, persist in the body and are deposited in glands called lymph nodes in various parts of the body.
What are the types of Lymphoma?
Although there are more than 200 sub-types of Lymphoma, the standard way of classifying Lymphoma depends on the actual type of white blood cell, which is overproduced. The first subtype that needs to be determined in Lymphoma is whether it is a Hodgkins or a Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma (NHL). NHL is further subdivided into B or T sub-type and low-grade activity or high-grade activity. The reason for such extensive subtyping is that the treatment protocol, use of targeted therapies and prognosis depends on the exact subtype allowing the oncologist to personalize treatment.
What are the symptoms of Lymphoma?
Lymphoma is a type of cancer which evolves over a few weeks to months. So the patient’s with Lymphoma usually present with non-specific complaints like weakness, unintentional weight loss (>10% body weight over six months), loss of appetite, evening rise of temperature. Another common presentation is unexplained lumps in the neck, under the armpit region and groin region.
What are the stages of Lymphoma, and how is it important?
Patients with Lymphoma are classified as having Ist, IInd, IIIrd or IVth stage disease. The staging depends on the extent of disease spread. When the disease in the scans is limited to one side of the diaphragm (structure separating abdomen and chest) area, it is a stage I or II. If the disease is present on both sides of the diaphragm, it is stage III. If the Lymphoma has spread to organs like liver, spleen or bone marrow, then it is stage IV. The particular stage of the disease defines prognosis.
Are advanced stage lymphomas curable?
Even in an advanced stage, Lymphoma is considered curable cancer. With the advent of specialized testing like immunohistochemistry (IHC) and genetic testing, the exact pathway involved in cancer formation can be identified, and targeted therapies can be initiated to achieve an optimum response and long term disease remission.
What is the latest in the treatment of Lymphoma?
Use of targeted therapy has improved cure rates in first-line treatment of lymphomas by leaps and bounds. Even in the relapsed setting, the option of using immunotherapy has improved outcomes. The technique of Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) has evolved significantly over the past two decades. Improvement in supportive care medications like antibiotics and immune-suppressing agents have improved outcomes significantly. The use of CAR - T cell therapy has led to long term cures even in patients with extensive lymphomas and multiple relapses.
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