Lymphoma Diagnosis and Treatments
A biopsy is the only sure way to diagnose lymphoma. Your doctor may remove an entire lymph node or only part of a lymph node. A thin needle usually cannot remove a large enough sample for the pathologist to diagnose lymphoma. Removing an entire lymph node is best.
A key part of this process is to correctly diagnose the precise lymphoma type. Modern medical advances have led to better ways to diagnose lymphoma accurately. However, these new techniques require doctors with specialized training in lymphoma diagnosis. This is the job of pathologists that specialize in diseases of the blood and bone marrow.
At UW there are four hematopathologists who are experts in this area, with a combined practice experience of over 25 years. They review all biopsies performed either at the Carbone Cancer Center or elsewhere before treatment decisions are made. In our experience, our hematopathologists change or clarify the diagnosis in about 20 percent of cases coming from other institutions, sometimes with important implications regarding prognosis and proper treatment options.
Treatment of Lymphomas
Prognosis and treatment options are influenced by the pathology or type of the tissue and cells found during a biopsy. Pathologic review is crucial in defining the type of disease and thus determining the best treatment. At the Carbone Cancer Center, we have pathologists devoted to the pathologic diagnosis of hematologic diseases.
Hodgkin lymphoma is usually treated with chemotherapy, radia¬tion therapy, or a combination of the two, depending on stage and cell type of the disease. Radiation treatment is usually delivered to the neck, chest, axilla and abdomen and in some cases pelvis.
Early-stage (stage I and stage II) slow growing or indolent non-Hodgkin lymphoma can be effectively treated with radiation therapy alone. Treatment may be deferred for patients with advanced stage indolent non-Hodgkin who are asymptomatic.
Treatment for aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphoma can be cured with intensive combination chemotherapy regimens and monoclonal antibodies. Monoclonal antibodies is a type of biological therapy that uses the body’s immune system to fight cancer. Rituxan® (rituximab) is an example of a monoclonal antibody that is used in the treatment of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
In addition, new types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials in hopes of finding better treatments for lymphoma.
Treatments available for patients with lymphoma include: