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WebMagic's Lymphoma.com™ is a comprehensive guide to online resources about Hodgkin's disease and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

What conventional treatment therapies are available?

There are many individual factors that are key in determining the right course of treatment for you. Some of these include not only your cancer type and its stage, but also your age, health status and other personal preferences. A cancer diagnosis may cause you to feel a sense of urgency to get started right away and make immediate choices about treatment and services. It is very important that you consider all of the options available and take the time to become informed at each stage of your care. No single course of treatment is right for everyone. Open communication with your cancer care team will enable you to make the best decision for you and your family.

There are four major types of treatment for cancer and your cancer treatment may involve a combination of them:

Surgery
Often the first treatment choice for many cancers, surgery may be used if the cancer appears localized (confined to one area). Through surgery, the cancerous area may be removed along with any surrounding tissue that may contain cancer cells. Your surgeon may not know just how much area will need to be removed until the actual operation is in progress. Success will depend on whether the cancer has spread to other areas. Please refer to the American Cancer Society's site at
www3.cancer.org/cancerinfo/load_cont.asp?ct=1&doc=74&Language=ENGLISH.

Radiation
Radiation is used in localized areas to destroy or damage cancer cells so they cannot continue to spread. Radiation treatment is often used in addition to surgery or chemotherapy and may be applied through external high-energy rays or internal implants.

External radiation treatment is painless (similar to having an X-ray) and typically lasts five days a week for five to eight weeks in an outpatient setting depending on the cancer size, type and location.

Sometimes, a higher overall dose of radiation over a shorter period of time is called for. In these cases, small containers of radiation are placed in or near the tumor while the patient is under local or general anesthesia. These radiation implants may be used for cancers of the head and neck, prostrate, uterus and cervix. Internal radiation treatment with implants generally does not cause severe pain but may create discomfort if an applicator is used to hold an implant in place. It is important to note that once the implant is removed, there is no radioactivity in the body. Some implants may be inserted in an outpatient setting while others require a stay in the hospital.

Like all treatments, side effects vary from patient to patient and depend upon the part of the body treated and the amount of radiation used. Please refer to the American Cancer Society's site at www2.cancer.org/radiation/ for more information.

Chemotherapy
If the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, then chemotherapy may be called for. Chemotherapy is the use of powerful anti-cancer drugs that are carried through the body in the bloodstream and may be taken by mouth or injection into a vein. Often, a combination of drugs is prescribed to improve the chances for success. After a round of chemotherapy drugs is administered, the patient will undergo a recovery period. This cycle allows the body to rest. Then another round of drugs is administered. The total course for chemotherapy may range from three to nine months. Depending on the type of cancer, chemotherapy may be effective after surgery in preventing the cancer from returning.

The type of cancer and its stage of development determine whether chemotherapy may be used to: cure the cancer, keep it from spreading, slow its growth, kill cancerous cells that may have spread to other parts of the body, or relieve symptoms.

Like all treatments, side effects vary from patient to patient and depend upon the type of drugs, the amount taken and the length of treatment. Please refer to the American Cancer Society's site at www2.cancer.org/chemo/ for more information.

Biologic Therapies
Biotherapy, also known as immunotherapy or biologic response modifier therapy, uses the body's immune system to either fight the cancer or reduce some of the side effects of some cancer treatments. This may be done by interfering with cancer cell growth, helping healthy cells to control the cancer or helping to repair healthy cells that have been damaged by the cancer treatment. Terms such as interferons, interleukins, and tumor necrosis factor all refer to biotherapy and more than one kind may be used alone or in combination with chemotherapy or radiation treatment.

Monoclonal Antibodies
Monoclonal antibodies are becoming more and more available and can be effective in fighting very specific types of cancer. A healthy body normally produces antibodies to fight infection. Medical researchers now are able to duplicate these antibodies in laboratories but instead of attacking germs, these monoclonal antibodies can be programmed to attack lymphoma cells.

Bone Marrow Transplants and Stem Cell Transplants
Some types of very advanced and nonresponsive lymphomas may call for
bone marrow transplants (the soft tissue in the center of large bones that produces white and red blood cells and platelets) or stem cell transplantation (the cells that develop blood) but not in all cases. Transplants fall into three basic donor categories. A syngeneic transplant is when the cells are donated by an identical twin. Allogenic is when the donor's basic cell is almost identical to the patient's as with a close relative (brother or sister). Rarely is the basic cell type matched by an unrelated relative. Autologous is when the patient's own stem cells are removed from his or her bone marrow or bloodstream. However, with types of NHL that spread to the bloodstream or bone marrow, it may be difficult to obtain uncontaminated cells even after treating the cells in a laboratory to remove or kill the NHL cells.

Marrow or cell transplantation is done to replace healthy, needed cells that have been destroyed by cancer treatment. Bone marrow or stem cells that have been removed from a donor are carefully frozen and stored while the patient receives high-dose chemotherapy and sometimes whole-body radiation treatment. While this destroys remaining cancer cells, it also kills all or most normal stem and/or bone marrow, leaving the body unable to form blood and defenseless to infection. After therapy, the frozen marrow or cells are thawed and returned to the body. During the recovery period, all of the body's systems must be carefully monitored for rejection, infection and any other supportive treatments that may be needed.

This is a very new and complex treatment that takes time and is expensive. If your doctor thinks a transplant is right for you, the best place to have it performed is a designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, where the professional staff has the most experience in this extensive patient care.




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