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Lymphomas and radiation

Overview

Lymphoma is a broad term for cancer that begins in cells of the lymphatic system. The two main types are Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Both types of lymphoma can often be cured, and radiotherapy often plays a prominent role in treatment in addition to chemotherapy.

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About lymphoma

Lymphoma is a broad term for cancer that begins in cells of the lymphatic system. The two main types are Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Both types of lymphoma can often be cured, and radiotherapy often plays a prominent role in treatment in addition to chemotherapy.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is the most common form of lymphoma, which forms in the bloodstream or lymphatic system, a network of vessels, nodes, and organs that carry immune cells throughout the body. More than 70,000 cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma are diagnosed every year and include dozens of types and sub-types. The disease is similar in some ways to Hodgkin lymphoma and leukemia, but the diseases also differ in important ways. Most forms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma develop when immune cells mutate or become damaged and begin to grow out of control, crowding out healthy immune cells. These cells may also form tumors in the lymph nodes, spleen, and other organs.

Hodgkin lymphoma can start almost anywhere, and most often it starts in lymph nodes in the upper part of the body. The most common sites are in the neck, chest, or under the arms. Hodgkin lymphoma most often spreads through the lymph vessels from lymph node to lymph node. It is possible in the later stages for Hodgkin lymphoma to invade the bloodstream and spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver, lungs, and bone marrow. Hodgkin and Non-Hodgkin lymphomas do not spread in the same way and respond to different treatments, so it’s important for you to know which version you have.

Considering the complexities and serious nature of non-Hodgkin and Hodgkin lymphomas, Minneapolis Radiation Oncology physicians work closely with your oncology team to develop a treatment plan tailored to the specific lymphoma type, with a goal of maximizing the chance for disease response and minimizing potential side effects.

Lymphoma and leukemia

Lymphoma and leukemia share a common origin—lymphocytes, the white blood cells that originate in the bone marrow. B-cells mature in the bone marrow, while T-cells mature in the thymus. These cells, which are critical soldiers in the immune system, travel through the lymphatic system and bloodstream and fight off infection and diseases.

Radiation treatment options

External beam radiation therapy (EBRT): Delivers high doses of radiation to lymphoma cells from outside the body, using a variety of machine-based technologies. Radiation therapy for lymphomas is used to destroy lymphoma cells and prevent cells from growing and reproducing. It may also be used to relieve pain or discomfort caused by an enlarged spleen or swollen lymph nodes. For patients with lymphoma, radiation treatment is generally confined to the involved lymph nodes and areas immediately surrounding the lymph nodes.