Lymphomas are a group of different malignancies of the lymphatic system – part of the body’s immune system. They can arise from any part of the body where there is lymphatic tissue. Although this is usually within in a group of lymph glands, it can also be in any tissue or organ. Cases like this are called extranodal lymphoma.
Lymphomas can be divided into low grade or high grade. Low grade lymphomas are slow growing and may not require any initial treatment. They are usually not eradicated completely from the body and are often present for life.
High grade lymphomas are faster growing and do require treatment when diagnosed. However these can be eradicated from the body. Chemotherapy is the main treatment for most lymphomas and is usually given by a haematologist.
Radiotherapy also has an important role to play in treating both groups of lymphoma. A few treatments with low dose radiotherapy may be sufficient to treat low grade lymphoma, while some patients with high grade lymphoma may receive three or four weeks of radiotherapy after chemotherapy.
A planning CT scan is usually required so that the oncologist can target the radiotherapy at the lymph glands or organ involved. The side effects of lymphoma radiotherapy vary tremendously as it can arise from any part of the body, however the doses required are low and therefore treatment is usually very well tolerated.