Diagnosis of lymphatic cancer
If the lymph nodes are swollen over a longer period of time, a doctor should be consulted. If there is a suspicion of lymphatic cancer, a tissue sample is taken (biopsy). Mostly, this procedure can be done under local anesthesia. The removed lymph node is then examined microscopically for signs of lymphoma cancer. If Sternberg Reed cells are found, this is considered evidence for Hodgkin's disease.
In order to gain more accurate knowledge, in addition to the biopsy, a series of further investigations may be necessary. These include, but are not limited to, ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography, x-ray, blood, scintigraphy, and liver and bone marrow biopsy. Which of these examinations must actually be carried out is individually different.
Determine the stage of lymph node cancer
As part of the diagnosis, the stage in which the malignant lymphoma is located, determined. The stage is critical to how good the chances of a cure for lymphoma cancer are. It is determined by the so-called Ann Arbor classification:
- Stage I: Only one lymph node region is affected.
- Stage II: There are two or more lymph node regions on one side of the diaphragm.
- Stage III: Two or more lymph node regions on both sides of the diaphragm are affected.
- Stage IV: There is a diffuse organ involvement of one or more organs outside the lymphatic system.
If there are no general symptoms such as fever or weight loss, the respective stage contains the suffix A. If these signs are present, the addition B is added. The suffix E means that an organ is involved that is not part of the lymphatic system.
Treat lymph node cancer
The sooner lymph node cancer is detected, the better the chances that the treatment will succeed and the patient can be cured. As a rule, malignant lymphomas are very sensitive to radiation or chemotherapy. The type of therapy used depends in particular on the stage of lymph node cancer.
Often, a combination of chemo- and radiotherapy is used in lymph node cancer. Chemotherapy is usually done in several cycles. The patient is administered cytotoxic agents that destroy rapidly dividing cells such as cancer cells. However, since healthy cells are also attacked, side effects such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue, susceptibility to infection and hair loss can occur.
In radiotherapy, the cancer cells are combated with ionizing radiation. The aim of the treatment is to inhibit or completely prevent cell division. While healthy cells can often repair radiation damage, the repair system of tumor cells works much worse.
However, as healthy tissue is usually affected as well, heart, lungs or thyroid problems may occur after treatment, depending on the site of treatment. Affected women also have an increased breast cancer risk. Chemotherapy can also increase the risk of contracting another type of cancer. Overall, however, lymph node cancer outweighs the benefits of the two forms of treatment.
Aftercare is important
If lymph node cancer has been treated successfully, medical follow-up must be carried out at regular intervals after the end of therapy. This ensures that a relapse is detected early. In addition, as part of the aftercare but also possible long-term side effects of radiation or chemotherapy are treated. At the beginning, a control usually takes place every two to three months, later every three to four months. After five years, the checks are carried out twice a year.
If a patient relapses after a completed lymph node cancer treatment, usually a particularly high-dose chemotherapy is performed or there is a bone marrow transplantation. If only radiotherapy was used during the first treatment, this is considered to be beneficial in the case of a relapse: Standard chemotherapy may be sufficient to cure lymph node cancer.