This is a cancer of the bone marrow that affects mostly children and teenagers, accounting for one to two percent of all lymphomas. An aggressive cancer, lymphoblastic lymphoma develops out of T lymphocytes in 90 percent of cases, but occasionally out of B lymphocytes as well, and requires immediate chemotherapy. It is very similar to acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and is treated in a similar way.
In lymphoma, the abnormal lymphocytes are generally in the lymph nodes or thymus gland, but in acute lymphoblastic leukemia they are mainly in the blood and bone marrow. Lymphoblastic lymphoma initially affects the lymph nodes but it can quickly spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver, spleen, bone marrow, skin, testicles, and brain, causing site-specific symptoms.
Treatment for lymphoblastic lymphoma is primarily chemotherapy, which follows three stages:
- Induction; to destroy as many cancer cells as possible.
- Consolidation; this is an increase in the strength of treatment in order to get rid of any remaining cancer cells and stop them from coming back.
- Maintenance (continuing therapy); an even less intensive form of chemotherapy given over the course of a couple of years after the initial treatment is finished, to prevent recurrence.
Radiotherapy is sometimes used to treat spine or brain involvement. It destroys cancer cells with high energy rays, leaving normal tissues relatively unharmed.
Stem cell transplant is sometimes done using cells from a donor (allogeneic transplant), or with the patient’s own cells (autologous transplant). A stem cell transplant may be an option when the cancer is in remission after chemotherapy. It may also be offered when the cancer recurs after treatment or when it responds slowly to treatment.