17.4 PTC Cancer Life Phases: Treatment of Blood & Lymphoma/PTLD Cancers
Ok, you understand the higher risk for cancer that an organ transplant recipient has, you know what to LOOK for by way of symptoms and testing especially for the type of organ transplant you received, so once DIAGNOSED, what TREATMENT options by cancer type are available?
After a cancer diagnosis — whether it's your own or that of a loved one — the right information can be one of your most powerful weapons. Here's what you need to know about cancer treatment and management.
Doctors will help figure out with you what the best treatment is for you. For each type of cancer, there are lots of different ways that it might be treated, depending on things about you and things about your cancer like how far along it is. It can be overwhelming to decide which treatment to go with, if you have options. Some things to consider according to the American Cancer Society are your age and how long you expect to live, other health conditions you have and how that matters for risk or how well the treatment will work, the stage of your cancer, if surgery will remove the cancer, the chances that the treatment will cure cancer or if it will help with symptoms, and your feelings about the side effects of that treatment. Some people have also said that even though the following things don’t actually help to treat their cancer, they might help cope with the experience: art therapy, physical activity when possible, meditation, music therapy, acupuncture and massage.
Cancer in the simplest terms is the abnormal growth of cells somewhere in the body. Each year, more than a million people receive a cancer diagnosis, and the most common types of cancer include skin cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, and colorectal cancer. In addition to the three major types of cancer treatment — surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy — researchers are working to find new and more effective ways of fighting cancer. Some cancers can't be prevented, but other types can be avoided by living a healthy lifestyle.
While surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are still the first-line treatments for most cancers, there are also new and emerging approaches. When you are learning about cancer and evaluating what cancer treatment to undergo, it's important to understand your options and the benefits and risks that each offers. Generally, cancer patients receive one of three types of cancer treatment: surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. It's also possible to receive a combination of any of those three types, in hopes of increasing the odds of getting rid of the cancer cells.
Different blood cancer treatment options and their pros/consMayo Clinic tells us that the treatment that you get depends on what kind and what stage your PTLD is. Also, your overall health and your personal preferences matter for what kind of treatment you choose or get. Here are different kinds:
- Active surveillance: This is where you and your doctor decide to just watch and wait to treat your lymphoma until it starts to interfere with your daily activities. This is usually more common for types of lymphomas that are slow-growing.
- Chemotherapy: This is when doctors give you drugs that destroy cells that are growing out of control like cancer cells. The drugs can be given through your veins or taken as a pill, depending on what kind they give you. The pros of chemo are that it can kill your cancer, or slow it down which can help you live longer and with fewer symptoms. The cons of chemo are mainly the side effects like feeling very tired/weak, bleeding and bruising, a higher risk of getting an infection, and the fact that you have to go to the hospital often. Because everyone is different, for some people chemo doesn’t work.
- Radiation therapy: This is when doctors use high-powered energy beams like x-rays to kill cancer cells. Radiation could happen in two different ways. One way is where your doctor gives you radiation using a machine outside of your body. It takes about 15 minutes each session and people usually have sessions 5 times a week for about 3-9 weeks. This kind doesn’t usually hurt. The other kind of radiation is inside of your body and they put temporary and/or permanent radioactive things in the tumor site. You might have to stay in the hospital briefly for a few of these treatments, and they might give you anesthesia (the thing that makes you go to sleep for surgery). Radiation treatment might make you feel tired, have sensitive skin where the radiation happens, and like any type of cancer, it can be stressful.
- Bone marrow transplant: For this treatment, your doctors will give you high doses of chemotherapy and radiation to break down your bone marrow, which sounds like a bad thing but then they replace that with healthy bone marrow stem cells from your body or from a donor. Those cells then travel to your bones to rebuild your bone marrow. The pros of a bone marrow transplant are that it can work to fight your cancer! The cons of bone marrow transplant are the side effects. Everyone experiences these differently, but in the short term, you might have nausea or vomiting, mouth sores, feeling really tired, diarrhea and changes in your blood counts that might put you at a higher risk of infection. In the long term, you might experience infertility which means difficulty getting pregnant or not being able to get a woman pregnant at all, cataracts which can make your vision worse, and early menopause for women.
- Your doctors may also give you other kinds of specific drugs if they think that is the appropriate direction for your care. For example, there are some targeted drugs for specific types of cancer cells. CAR-T therapy is one kind that takes your body’s germ-fighting cells called T-cells, and changes them in a laboratory to put them back in your body to fight cancer.
Here are some numbers that tell you about what percent of people survive PTLD that is Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma cancer, compared to people who don’t have cancer survive at least 5 years after being diagnosed. These numbers don’t tell us anything about what specific treatments people had, they only give us a big-picture idea of surviving five years. These numbers group people into three stages. These stages are:
- localized where the cancer is in or on a lymph node or organ,
- regional which is when cancer has spread from lymph node to a nearby organ is in 2 or more lymph node areas on the same side of your diaphragm or is considered “bulky disease”, and
- distant where cancer has spread too far away to parts of the body like lungs, liver, bone marrow, or lymph nodes above and below the diaphragm.
Planning and Preparing
Facing cancer is a difficult experience. Knowing what to expect and understanding how to navigate this journey can help make this stressful time easier. There are actions you can take at every step of the journey that may help you feel more in control of your health. Use these treatment tips offered by American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), for before, during and after cancer treatment below.