Central nervous system lymphoma affects the brain and spine
The lymph system is a part of your immune system that produces cells that fight infection. Your lymph system is spread throughout your body, including your lymph nodes, lymph ducts and lymph vessels. These ducts and vessels help lymph (which is made up of white blood cells) get in and out of your bloodstream to fight infection. Sometimes the white blood cells in lymph can become cancerous. Each time a white blood cell divides into two white blood cells, it also makes a copy of its DNA. Sometimes the DNA copy has a mistake. Cells with DNA mistakes can grow out of control and become lymphoma (cancer of lymph tissue). Lymphoma can happen in many parts of your body. When lymphoma starts in your brain or spinal cord, it is called central nervous system (CNS) lymphoma. It is a rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
What are symptoms of central nervous system lymphoma?
You may be at a higher risk of CNS lymphoma if your immune system is weak due to a condition like AIDS. CNS lymphoma may cause symptoms such as:
- Problems seeing
- Weakness or numbness in your face, arms or legs
How is central nervous system lymphoma treated?
Two main treatments, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, are used to fight central nervous system lymphoma. Chemotherapy uses medicines to kill cancer cells. Most patients receive chemotherapy through a tube in a vein in the arm or chest. For CNS lymphoma, you may also have chemotherapy injected into your spine or into brain fluid in order for treatment to be more effective. Radiation therapy uses radiation energy to kill cancer cells. Depending on your specific case, your doctor may not recommend radiation therapy. Chemotherapy alone may be enough to help you. Steroids, which are hormones, may also be used to fight CNS lymphoma, especially in patients with AIDS. Though steroids are usually used to fight swelling, some steroids can also shrink tumors. Clinical trials are exploring new ways to treat CNS lymphoma. At Main Line Health, you have access to clinical trials that can shape the future of cancer detection, treatment and prevention. Our experts strive to help you find treatments personalized to your needs.