Lymphomas are cancers that develop in the lymphatic
system—the tissues and organs that produce, store, and
carry white blood cells. The lymphatic system includes the bone marrow, spleen,
thymus, and lymph nodes and a network of thin tubes that carry lymph and white
blood cells into all the tissues of the body. Types of lymphoma include
non-Hodgkin's, Hodgkin's, and cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.
In non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, the most common form of the disease, cells in the
lymphatic system become abnormal. They divide and grow without any order or
control, or old cells that should die, don't. Non-Hodgkin's can begin and/or
spread to almost any part of the body.
In Hodgkin's disease, cells in the lymphatic system also become abnormal, but
the cancer tends to spread in a fairly orderly way from one group of lymph nodes
to the next. Eventually, it can spread almost anywhere.
In cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, T-lymphocytes (infection-fighting white blood
cells) become cancerous, causing skin problems.
Signs and Symptoms
Lymphoma is accompanied by the following signs and symptoms, by type.
Non-Hodgkin's and Hodgkin's:
Painless swelling in lymph nodes in neck, underarm, or
Drenching night sweats
Unexplained weight loss
Dark patches on skin
Tumors on skin (mycosis fungoides)
Who's Most At Risk?
People with the following conditions or characteristics are at risk for
developing lymphoma, by type.
Infections—Epstein-Barr virus (EBV),
Helicobacter pylori, Kaposi's sarcoma herpes virus (HIV-related
lymphoma), human T-cell leukemia virus type 1
Immunosuppressive therapy following organ transplant
Prior chemotherapy or radiation exposure or therapy
Exposure to certain chemicals or solvents
Viruses—EBV, mononucleosis, HIV
Whites more likely than blacks
Men more likely than women
Same-sex siblings—10 times greater
Human T-cell leukemia virus type 1
Exposure to certain chemicals or
What to Expect at Your Provider's Office
If you are experiencing symptoms associated with lymphoma, you should see
your health care provider. He or she will carefully check for swelling or lumps
in the neck, underarms, and groin. If the lymph nodes don't feel normal, a
biopsy will be performed. The doctor will remove a small piece of the lymph
node—or, in the case of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, a
growth from the skin—and a pathologist will examine the
tissue under a microscope to check for cancer cells.
If cancer is present, more tests will be done to find out if the cancer has
spread to other parts of the body (staging). This may involve blood and bone
marrow tests, CT scans, and, possibly, a laparotomy, in which the doctor cuts
into the abdomen and checks the organs for cancer.
A treatment plan will be based on the diagnosis, the stage of the disease,
the size of the tumor, and your general health and age.
Your provider may prescribe the following drug therapies.
Hodgkin's and Non-Hodgkin's:
Chemotherapy, possibly with alpha interferon
Emollients, moisturizers, topical steroids
Electron beam therapy
Retinoids and interferon
Surgical and Other Procedures
Bone marrow transplantation and peripheral blood stem cell transplantation
are sometimes performed. Radioimmunotherapy, which is treatment with a
radioactive substance that is linked to an antibody that will attach to the
tumor when injected into the body, is being tested in clinical trials. Surgical
removal of the tumor may also be performed.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
A comprehensive treatment plan for lymphoma may include a range of
complementary and alternative therapies. Be sure to ask your team of health care
providers about the best ways to incorporate these therapies into your overall
Improved relaxation and decreased stress, through such activities as guided
imagery, tai chi, yoga, and meditation are helpful in promoting a sense of
well-being. Intimacy and support from others helps promote a positive and
Eat only organically-raised foods and foods that support detoxification,
immunity, and are high in antioxidant nutrients, such as beets, carrots,
artichokes, yams, onions, garlic, dark leafy greens, yellow and orange
vegetables, shiitake mushrooms, green tea, and filtered water. Avoid refined
foods, sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and saturated fats (animal products).
Potentially beneficial nutrient supplements include the
Vitamin C (250 to 500 mg twice per day), vitamin E (400 IU twice per
day), beta carotene (50,000 IU one to two times per day), coenzyme Q10 (100 mg
three times per day), and zinc (30 mg per day)
Coenzyme Q10 and L-carnitine (600 mg three times per day) may reduce
toxicity from chemotherapy
Selenium (200 mcg twice per day) and glutathione (500 mg twice per
day) may reduce toxicity from chemotherapy
B-complex (50 to 100 mg) for stress
Juicing: In a juicer, combine equal parts romaine lettuce, green
pepper, celery, parsley, cucumber, and apple or pear (for flavor). Use organic
fruits and vegetables. Drink one glass per
Herbal remedies may aid detoxification, tumor inhibition, and immune support.
Herbs are generally available as dried extracts (pills, capsules, or tablets),
teas, or tinctures (alcohol extraction, unless otherwise noted). Dose for teas
is 1 heaping tsp. per cup of water steeped for 10 minutes (roots need 20
Choose one or more of the following.
Commercial Hoxsey-like formulas or trifolium compounds (60 drops two
to three times per day for six months or longer)
Scudder's Alterative Compound: combine equal parts of corydalis tubers
(Dicentra Canadensis), black tag alder (Alnus serrulata), mayapple
root (Podophyllum peltatum), figwort (Scrophularia nodosa), and
yellowdock (Rumex crispus). Take 30 to 40 drops tincture three to four
times per day for six months.
Essiac or Flor-Essence (drink one cup tea twice per day or take 2 tbs.
formula twice per day for six months)
Homeopathy may help reduce symptoms and strengthen overall constitution and
may help decrease the side effects of chemotherapy.
Contrast hydrotherapy may help enhance immune function and facilitate the
transport of nutrients and waste products. End hot showers with one to two
minutes of cold-water spray.
Acupuncture may help strengthen immunity and detoxification. It may also
reduce the side effects of
Prognosis varies depending on the type and stage of lymphoma. Survival rates
for Stage I and II non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and Hodgkin's lymphoma are very high.
Potential complications include the following: Hodgkin's sometimes develops into
non-Hodgkin's lymphoma; radiation and chemotherapy can cause secondary cancers;
infections and pulmonary fibrosis (thickening and scarring of the air sacs of
the lungs) may occur.
Once you are in remission, it is essential that you be checked for signs of
relapse on a regular basis.
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Review Date: March 2000
Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Anne McClenon, ND, Compass Family
Health Center, Plymouth, MA; Scott Shannon, MD, Integrative Psychiatry, Medical
Director, McKee Hospital Center for Holistic Medicine, Fort Collins, CO; Leonard
Wisneski, MD, FACP, George Washington University, Rockville,
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