Life after lymphoma

Treatment advances have increased lymphoma survival rates. But life after treatment for lymphoma can be complicated.

"It's a really good problem to have, if you will, on how to manage some of these short- and long-term effects of lymphoma treatment," explains Dr. Carrie Thompson, a Mayo Clinic hematologist. "As we effectively treat more and more patients, we have more and more patients surviving and more and more patients living with chronic lymphoma, as well."

Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system, part of the body's germ-fighting network, which includes the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus gland and bone marrow. Lymphoma can affect those and other organs throughout the body. 

Of the many types of lymphoma, the main subtypes are Hodgkin's lymphoma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Lymphoma treatment is based on the type and stage of the disease, and the goal of treatment is to destroy as many cancer cells as possible and bring the disease into remission.

Lymphoma survivors need to be monitored for cancer recurrence. Some lymphoma treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation, can put patients at risk of developing a secondary cancer. 

"The No. 1 concern patients have is really the risk of relapse," says Dr. Thompson. "Once somebody has been through treatment, they certainly don't want to be faced with having to do that all over again. The fear of recurrence sometimes spills over to really being very appropriately vigilant about all health issues and finding that balance between watching for symptoms that may suggest recurrence versus living without uncertainty and a comfortable way to move forward from what's been a really challenging part of somebody's life."

In this "Mayo Clinic Q&A" podcast video, Dr. Thompson discusses what people can expect after treatment for lymphoma and how to achieve the best quality of life:

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A version of this article was originally published on the Mayo Clinic News Network.