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Lymphoma

Lymphoma: Frequently Asked Questions

Thursday, April 19, 2012 - 13:41

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Here are some frequently asked questions related to Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

Q: What are some of the possible side effects of treatment?

A: The effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy can be harsh. Remember that they are mostly temporary and won't last forever. Talk with your doctor about what to expect and which symptoms to report if you experience them. Side effects may include:

  • Fatigue.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Pain.
  • Hair loss.
  • Anemia.
  • Central nervous system problems.
  • Infection.
  • Blood clotting problems or excessive bleeding.
  • Mouth, gum, and throat problems.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Constipation.
  • Nerve and muscle effects, like tingling, burning, weakness, or pain in muscles or skin.
  • Effects on skin and nails, such as redness, rashes, itching, peeling, dryness, acne or increased sensitivity to the sun.
  • Radiation recall, when the skin turns red and may blister.
  • Kidney and bladder effects.
  • Flu-like symptoms.
  • Fluid retention.
  • Temporary or permanent problems having children.

Your doctor can give you information on drugs and other ways to reduce side effects.

Q: What other types of problems is lymphoma likely to cause?

A: Even before treatment begins, lymphoma may cause anemia. Anemia can cause extreme fatigue. Lymphoma may also interfere with the immune system, making infections more likely. Sleep disorders, depression and anxiety are also common effects. In the advanced stages of cancer, people often develop cachexia, in which they stop eating and develop profound fatigue and weakness. Speak with your doctor if you are having trouble with any of these symptoms. Anemia can be treated, and sleep disorders can often be helped with medications. Medications are also available to help with cachexia.

Q: Are there other things besides drugs that can ease pain or the side effects of treatment?

A: There are a number of complementary approaches that have helped many people deal with the discomfort and pain of lymphoma and treatments for cancer. These include:

  • Relaxation techniques.
  • Biofeedback, a technique for learning how to change your response to stress.
  • Massage.
  • Visualization and guided imagery.
  • Hypnosis.
  • Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation (TENS), a therapy using electric stimulation of nerves and muscles to relieve pain.
  • Acupuncture or acupressure (acupuncture is not recommended for people receiving chemotherapy, as it may increase bleeding).
  • Skin stimulation (heat, cold, pressure).

Support groups for lymphoma patients offer more information on learning about these techniques.

Q: Can lymphomas occur in other parts of the body than thelymph nodes?

A: Yes, tumors can be found in other organs, such as the liver, the stomach, or even the brain. Sometimes tumors in organs are found even if tumors have not been found in the lymph nodes.

Q: Are there alternative medicines (herbs, shark cartilage, etc.) that will work for lymphoma?

A: So far, no herbal or other alternative therapy has been proven to help lymphoma. For this reason, and because lymphoma can be a life-threatening disease, the safest course is to have medical treatments prescribed and tracked by your medical team. If you decide to try alternative therapies such as herbs or homeopathy in addition to the medical treatments advised by your medical team, be sure to discuss all treatments with your doctor first. Some alternative therapies may interfere with your treatment, lowering their chance of success. Others may become toxic when taken with chemotherapy drugs. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) offers information on alternative therapies that have been used to treat cancer. This information describes the results of scientific studies on these therapies. The National Institute of Health (NIH) has also set up the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), which is conducting scientific studies on herbal and other alternative medicines.

Q: Are new treatments for lymphoma being developed?

A: Yes. Many new therapies, or combinations of therapies, are being studied. Working with a trained oncologist will help to insure that you receive the most up-to-date and effective treatment.

Q: Would a clinical trial be right for me? How can I find out about clinical trials for new treatments for lymphoma?

A: You may want to consider enrolling in a clinical research trial. This is a study in which some patients are given the standard treatment for a particular type of cancer, while other patients are given a new treatment. Any treatment tested in people must first pass rigorous tests in animals. The National Cancer Institute (See Additional Sources of Information.) has an up-to-date list of ongoing clinical trials of new therapies for cancer.

Lymphoma (Non-Hodgkin's Type)