Lymphoma in the brain (cerebral lymphoma)
What is a lymphoma in the brain?
Degenerated cells of the immune system are called lymphoma in the brain. More specifically, it is the lymphocyte which belongs to the white blood cells. These form a tumor.
Normally, lymphomas settle within the lymphatic organs. These include lymph nodes, liver, spleen and the mucous membranes of the stomach and intestines. However, the lymphoma can spread from these organs to the brain, becoming a so-called secondary brain lymphoma.
However, it is also possible that a lymphoma develops in the brain itself. Such a lymphoma is called primary brain lymphoma. This lymphoma in the brain has its origin in degenerated lymphoid cells.
Unfortunately, the causes of lymphoma in the brain are not yet known. The trigger for white cell degeneration and the associated formation of a tumor in the human brain thus remains a mystery.
It can be said, however, that the risk of lymphoma in the brain is relatively low in individuals with an intact immune system. However, with people who have a weakened immune system, the risk increases enormously.
For example, it was found that about one percent of people with AIDS suffer from lymphoma in the brain. Basically, the shorter the duration of the underlying disease, the lower the risk of developing lymphoma in the brain.
Symptoms, complaints & signs
Lymphoma in the brain can cause various symptoms. Among other things, these depend on the location and size of the cerebral lymphoma. Nausea, vomiting and headache are the first signs of illness. These symptoms are particularly noticeable in an increased intracranial pressure, which occurs in approximately half of those affected.
Increased intracranial pressure occurs when cerebral lymphoma spreads to the meninges. This often causes fluid retention (brain water, cerebrospinal fluid) in the cerebrospinal fluid. Sometimes paralysis is observed affecting only one half of the body. It is spoken of a so-called hemiparesis. Often the eyes are also affected when certain cell components penetrate into the vitreous body and the middle eye skin.
It then comes to visual field defects or visual impairment, which are characterized by partial attenuation of the visual field and reduction in visual acuity. Half of all patients with cerebral lymphoma develop neuropsychological symptoms such as memory disorders, personality changes and confusional states.
Also aphasia (speech disorders) can occur. The language disorders are noticeable among other things by impairments of the language education and the speech understanding. If the lymphoma is in the temporal lobe, it can also lead to]] epilepsy epileptic seizures]. This is rarely the case. The prognosis of the disease ranges from complete healing to fatal events and depends on the type, size, location and timing of the start of treatment.
Diagnosis & HistorySchematic representation of the location of a brain tumor in the brain. Click to enlarge.
For the diagnosis of lymphoma in the brain, the modern sectional imaging method plays an important role. It is thus possible to visualize the affected regions using magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography. However, the cross-sectional imaging method does not offer a reliable diagnosis.
The reason for this is the diversity of a lymphoma in the brain. Additional investigations are required. In this context, the examination of the brain water must be called. However, definitive safety in terms of the diagnosis is only the histological examination.
Lymphoma in the brain requires the fastest possible diagnosis and treatment, as the tumor usually grows very quickly. For the course of the disease, the form of therapy is very crucial. It is therefore chosen wisely by the doctors. As a rule, lymphoma in the brain responds very well to radiotherapy.
However, this alone is not enough and the therapy is associated with a high risk. For this reason, a combined version of chemo- and radiotherapy is recommended. In such a case, a lymphoma in the brain has a 5-year survival rate of up to 70 percent.
As a rule, lymphoma in the brain is a very serious complaint. If the tumor is not treated or removed, it is in most cases the death of the patient. For this reason, a treatment by a doctor is necessary in any case. Patients primarily suffer from headaches, which usually can not be reduced with the help of painkillers.
It is not uncommon for vomiting or nausea. Those affected can also have visual disturbances and are therefore significantly limited in their everyday lives. Also, paralysis and sensitivity disorders can occur in various parts of the body due to lymphoma in the brain, significantly reducing the patient's quality of life.
Not infrequently, it leads to a loss or memory lapses, so that the everyday life for those affected is significantly more difficult. Also, personality disorders or mental discomfort can occur due to the lymphoma in the brain. The treatment of this complaint is possible through radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
This may eventually remove the tumor completely. However, whether it comes to a complete positive course of disease can not be predicted universally in general. The life expectancy of the patient may be reduced and limited by the lymphoma in the brain.
When should you go to the doctor?
For signs of lymphoma in the brain medical advice is needed. If neurological deficits, convulsions, recurring migraines, gastrointestinal complaints and other symptoms show up, the best thing to do is to go to the doctor immediately. In case of severe or rapidly increasing symptoms that affect well-being, a neurologist should be consulted. If the symptoms are related to a viral infection, the intake of certain chemicals or X-rays or gamma radiation, the responsible doctor must also be informed.
Concerned persons should also seek medical advice if they have severe concomitant symptoms such as headache, nausea and vomiting or memory problems. For recurrent epileptic seizures the emergency doctor is best called. The actual diagnosis is made by a neurologist, who usually initiates the treatment as well.
Other contact points are internists and physiotherapists. Since the illness can also have an effect on the psyche, concomitant psychotherapy makes sense. After completing the treatment, the patient must be regularly examined to rule out any possible recurrences or treat them promptly.
Treatment & Therapy
At a lymphoma in a brain the treatment depends on a tumor. If isolated lymphoma is present, a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy is usually used. However, an early diagnosis is the basis for the success of the treatment.
In order to avoid that the lymphoma spreads over the brain water, an additional drug is often given. Administration is via a puncture of the spinal canal. Irradiation of lymphoma in the brain is carried out in single doses and takes place over a period of up to five weeks. Treatment in the form of surgery is out of the question for lymphoma in the brain. Reason is the fact that cerebral lymphomas in the case of a lymphoma in the brain can not be completely removed.
Outlook & Forecast
Left untreated, lymphoma in the brain results in the premature death of the person affected. There is a steady increase in pain or dysfunction, as the lymphoma can continue to spread unhindered in the head. Ultimately, the patient's organism is so weakened that death occurs. The prognosis improves if the diagnosis is made early and medical treatment can be initiated. The growth of the lymphoma must be contained as soon as possible, so that a cure prospect exists.
A classic cancer therapy is initiated to increase the patient's chances of survival. With chemotherapy and radiotherapy, the diseased tissue is to be prevented from making a cell division. The prospect of improvement is given to people who basically have a healthy immune system. It has been shown that these persons have better conditions in coping with the disease.
In spite of a regression of the lymphoma, a recurrence of the symptoms can occur at any time during the course of life. In these cases the same treatment is taken as with the first illness. Again, the weaker the immune system is, the less favorable are the prospects of alleviating the symptoms. People with a lymphoma experience periods of no-complaint. However, a recovery does not occur.
There are no universal preventive measures for lymphoma in the brain. Basically, however, it is recommended to avoid chemicals and unnecessary radiation. In addition, the immune system should be strengthened. A low-fat and varied diet, as well as a lot of sports and low alcohol are therefore the basis for reducing the risk of developing lymphoma in the brain.
As with all tumorous diseases is after treatment, initially close-meshed aftercare. This has the goal of detecting any newly occurring tumors or metastases very early. In the case of a brain tumor, therefore, follow-up checks take place several times a year at intervals of a few months. If no abnormalities are found, the distances to the next control increase.
Whether there are any new growths is usually checked via MRI or CT. Precisely because malignant brain tumors often have a high risk of recurrence despite initially successful treatment, it is important for those affected to regularly attend their follow-up appointments. The prognosis for new tumors is the better, the sooner they are discovered.
New brain tumors do not always lead to symptoms that should warn the patient. Oftentimes, findings requiring treatment are discovered by chance during follow-up. If there are unusual pains outside of the follow-up checks, this is always a reason to introduce yourself to the attending physician promptly. This can decide whether the next appointment for follow-up should be brought forward, in order to be able to exclude promptly that new tumors have formed.
You can do that yourself
A treatment by means of self-help is not possible with this disease. Patients are always dependent on radiotherapy or chemotherapy to combat lymphoma in the brain. Furthermore, it is also important to take regular medication to avoid spreading through the brain water. An operative treatment is not possible here.
As with other cancers, people are dependent on constant support from friends and family. This support should not take place on a physical but also on a psychological level. In case of depression or other mental upsets, always help with family or other familiar people.
The person affected should be relieved in his or her everyday life, especially if he or she has to undergo chemotherapy. Unnecessary loads are to be avoided in any case. Children should always be informed about the possible consequences and complications of lymphoma in the brain. Furthermore, in this disease, contact with other patients may have a positive effect on the course of the disease.