Treatment for lymph node cancer depends on the severity of the disease, its location, and the degree to which the cancer has spread. Age and the overall health of the individual are also taken into consideration. Lymph node cancer can start either directly in the lymph nodes, which is called Hodgkin lymphoma, or it can spread to the lymph nodes from another area of the body, such as the lungs, and is called non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
When cancer has metastasized to the lymph nodes, it is sometimes removed surgically, particularly if the lymph nodes are adjacent to another cancerous organ. Both chemotherapy and radiation therapy are used, either alone or in combination, depending on the severity of the lymph node cancer. Hormone therapy can also be used in combination with these treatments. For advanced lymphoma with a poor prognosis, a multiple treatment program can include stem cell transplants used either in conjunction with radiation therapy or on its own.
Clinical trials are currently underway using high-dose radiation treatment with stem cell transplants that are taken from the patient. Still in clinical trials is a monoclonal antibody treatment. This treatment uses a laboratory-made protein that will bind specifically to the cancer cells and can deliver medication or radioactive substances to destroy the cancer cells without damage to the surrounding tissues. The protein can also be used alone to stimulate the patient’s immune system.
Since cancer cells are very heat sensitive, hyperthermia is also in clinical trials as a cancer treatment. Some of these treatments use nanoparticles that target the cancer cells and destroy them with heat. The heated nanoparticles do not damage surrounding tissue; only the cancer cells are affected.
Treatment options are more difficult for women who are pregnant and will vary according to several factors, including the age of the fetus and the severity of the cancer. When lymphoma is diagnosed after the first half of the pregnancy, treatment may be delayed until after the baby is born. Otherwise, labor may be induced after the 32-week mark so that the mother can begin treatment. As with all cancer treatment regimens, the specific needs of the individual are the determining factors.
Those who wish to enroll in clinical trials can do so at any time before, during, or after their treatment program.