Lymphoma is the third most common pediatric cancer and is divided into Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin, based on the characteristics of the cancer cells. Lymphomas primarily affect the lymphoid system, a part of your immune system, which is made up of lymphocytes. These are the white blood cells that are present in the lymph nodes located throughout the body. Although lymphomas generally begin in the lymph nodes, they can develop in other areas of the body as well.
Treatment for lymphoma can depend on the type and location of the malignant cells. The team of pediatric oncologists at Children’s Blood & Cancer Center is equipped with the latest technology and treatment options for children and teens with lymphoma. Being informed about the various types of the disease, as well as the best lymphoma treatments currently available can be a good first step in the healing process.
Wellness and Prevention
The causes of pediatric lymphoma are still unknown, but there are several common symptoms of the disease in children:
- Painless swollen lymph nodes
- Swollen abdomen
- Feeling full after only eating a small amount of food
- Weight loss
- Night sweats
In some cases, symptoms may not be noticeable until the lymphoma is fairly large. Enlarged lymph nodes are, however, the most common symptom, but this can also be a sign of the immune system fighting off an infection. If you or your child notices swollen lymph nodes, consult your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.
In order to either confirm or rule out lymphoma as the cause of your child’s symptoms, doctors will perform a series of tests:
- Physical exam to assess physical symptoms such as enlarged lymph nodes or spleen, fever and night sweats
- Biopsy to remove a small portion of the affected tissue in order to test for cancer cells. This may be performed through surgery or using a specialized needle to obtain the necessary sample.
- Imaging tests such as a CAT scan, PET scan or MRI to help determine the type and stage of the lymphoma
Oncology specialists will determine the best treatment method based on the type, stage and location of the lymphoma. Chemotherapy is the most common pediatric lymphoma treatment, and it may be used alone or in combination with radiation therapy, depending on your child’s specific circumstances. In more severe cases, or in the event of a relapse, stem cell transplantation may be required.
Chemotherapy involves the use of chemicals, either taken via oral medications and/or administered intravenously, to destroy cancer cells and prevent their growth. The exact combination of medications can vary depending on the type of lymphoma.
Radiation therapy may be combined with chemotherapy for the most effective results. This treatment method utilizes high-energy radiation to disable and kill cancer cells.
Stem Cell Transplantation
In some cases, a stem cell transplant may be combined with chemotherapy. This treatment is typically used only after initial treatment has been unsuccessful, or in the even of a relapse. To perform a stem cell transplant, malignant white blood cells are first destroyed through chemotherapy. Then, healthy cells from the child or a donor are infused into the bloodstream.
Following a lymphoma diagnosis treatment, maintaining regular follow-up visits with your doctor is a key part of the recovery process. These check-ups can ensure that your child’s health is progressing as it should, and can help to detect any potential complications that may arise.
Your child should gradually return to normal activities over time, following the advice of your doctor. If you notice any additional symptoms, such as chest pain, dizziness, fever or vomiting, contact your healthcare provider immediately.