Mayo Clinic Minute: Understanding, treating lymphoma

Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system, which is part of the body’s germ-fighting network. The main two subtypes are Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Because of breakthrough research, this once fatal diagnosis has been transformed into a curable condition.

In this Mayo Clinic Minute, Dr. Stephen Ansell, a Mayo Clinic hematologist, discusses the different treatment options.

“The cancer in this case is the immune system. So, often we’re trying to get the immune system to fight against the cancer. But in this case, the challenge is the cancer is the immune system itself,” says Dr. Ansell.

Treatment depends on the type and stage of lymphoma, and may involve chemotherapy, immunotherapy medications, radiation therapy, a bone marrow transplant or some combination of these.

“In the last 10 years, we’ve learned that you can actually activate the patient’s immune system and have the immune system target the cancer, and that may actually be as effective and sometimes more effective than just using a kind of a nonspecific chemotherapy approach,” says Dr. Ansell.

Recent advancements in how lymphoma is treated has helped give more patients hope.

“Treatment is highly successful in the majority of patients,” says Dr. Ansell. “Even if the first time around, there are challenges ― there are novel therapies that are coming along or that are already here ― that can impact the outcomes substantially.”