Non Hodgkin's Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the white blood cells. Several treatment options for patients who suffer from this disease. Some of the common treatment methods include chemotherapy, radiation therapy and stem cell transplant. Generally, a hematologist, a medical oncologist or a radiation oncologist is responsible for carrying out the different processes that are required to treat this type of cancer. The most suitable treatment option will depend on the patient's case. For less severe cases, chemotherapy or radiation therapy may suffice. However, if the cancer has progressed to an advanced stage, patients may be asked to go through a stem cell transplant in order to cure themselves of the disease. Before deciding on any particular treatment method, it is vital that the patient get a second opinion to be sure that the chosen method will prove to be most effective and safest option for his/her case. In certain cases, where the cancer is very small and in the initial stages, a simple biopsy can help remove it, after which the patient will not need further treatment.
Depending on the treatment method opted for, the process can vary to a great extent. If the patient opts for chemotherapy, he/she will be administered medication for the cure of Non Hodgkin's lymphoma. Chemotherapy itself is administered in different ways, depending on the stage of the patient's cancer. In the initial stages, where cancer is curable, doctors may administer chemotheraphy through a drip that helps the transmission of the medication into the veins of the patient. If it's not curable. doctors can administer oral chemotherapy tablets. Moreover, if the cancer is spreading to the brain of the patient, injections will be given directly into the cerebrospinal fluid to help cure cancer. Radiation therapy is used to treat Non Hodgkin's Lymphoma in early stages. In this treatment method, the patient has to periodically visit the hospital where he or she is subjected to radiation in short sessions. This method is virtually painless. Stem cell transplant is of two types. One is called autologous stem cell transplant in which stem cells from patients own body are collected weeks before the treatment and are entered back into the patients bloodstream via an IV drip. The other type is known as allogenic stem cell transplant. In this type of transplant, a donor's stem cells are used, generally of a sibling's as long as the tissues match and they are then inserted into the patient's blood via IV.
Patients who are in the intial stages of Non Hodgkin's Lymphoma are the most suitable candidates for chemotherapy as well as radiation therapy. Stem cell transplant is recommended for patients who are in remission or have experienced a relapse of their symptoms either during the treatment or after the treatment of this disease.
Severely ill-patients who are in the later stages of cancer are not advised chemotherapy or radiation therapy for their Non Hodgkin's Lymphoma. As for stem cell transplant, patients who are above 65 years of age and suffer from severe comorbities may not be eligible for this treatment option.
Each of the different treatment procedures for Non Hodgkins Lymphoma comes with their own set of side effects. Chemotherapy brings about side effects such as breathlessness, fatigue, easy bleeding and bruising and increased susceptibility to infections. Side effects of radiation therapy include red and swollen skin where the treatment was performed, exhaustion, dry mouth, nausea, loss of appetite and vomitting. Stem cell transplant brings with it many side effects too such as infections, bleeding, anemia, problems of the digestive system, hair and skin problems, pain and more.
Post stem cell transplant, patients will have to wash their hands with a clinically tested soap to keep infections at bay, stay away from people who are ill, cover their mouth when going out in public, limit their exposure to sunlight and use ultrasoft toothbrushes to brush their teeth. As for chemotherapy, after every session patients will have to make sure that they eat high calorie and high protein foods, brush their teeth 2-3 times a day, wash their hands frequently and stay away from pets and animals. Apart from following the guidelines already mentioned , patients who have opted for radiation therapy should take extra care of the area where the treatment was carried out and make sure that it is not exposed to sun or cosmetics.
Recovery period of chemotherapy can take up to six monhths. As for radiation therapy, patients can expect the side effects to subside and to recover fully within a few months since the last radiation session. For patients who have gone through stem cell transplants, the recovery period can be fairly long and it may take several weeks for the white blood cell count to return to normal.
The price of chemotherapy can India can go up to Rs. 1 lakh whereas that of radiation therapy can hover between Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 2.75 lakhs. Stem cell transplants are very expensive and can range from Rs 20 lakhs to Rs 35 lakhs.
The results of each of the treatments - chemotherapy, radiation therapy and stem cell transplant are permant. However, in certain cases, a relapse can take place.
Plenty of alternative treatments are available for Non Hodgkin's Lymphoma. These include immunotherapy, targeted therapy, surgery, steroid medication and monoclonal antibody therapy.