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Brain
Brain


Definition:

Primary lymphoma of the brain is cancer of the lymph cells that starts in the brain.



Alternative Names:

Brain lymphoma; Cerebral lymphoma; Primary lymphoma of the central nervous system; Lymphoma - brain



Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

The cause of primary brain lymphoma is unknown. It is more common in people ages 45 - 70.

Patients who have a weakened immune system are at greater risk for primary lymphoma of the brain. Common causes of a weakened immune system include:

  • HIV
  • Organ transplants (especially heart transplants)

Lymphoma is also linked to Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) infection, the virus that causes mononucleosis .

The incidence of primary brain lymphoma is rising, but it is still relatively rare.



Symptoms:

Signs and tests:

The following tests may be performed to help diagnose a primary lymphoma of the brain:



Treatment:

The condition is usually first treated with corticosteroids. However, chemotherapy may increase survival by 3 - 4 years, or longer. The chemotherapy is usually high doses of methotrexate given through a vein (intravenously) or a spinal tap .

Treating patients with weakened immune systems is not as successful, but it is improving.

Radiation therapy used to be the main treatment for primary lymphoma of the brain. Now it is usually reserved for treating patients who do not respond to chemotherapy.

Treatment with multiple therapies (combination therapy) is common.



Support Groups:



Expectations (prognosis):

The survival of untreated primary brain lymphoma is under 2 months. Treated with chemotherapy, patients often survive 3 - 4 years or more. About 40% of patients are alive at 5 years. In general, older patients have a worse outlook than younger patients.



Complications:

Possible complications include:

  • Chemotherapy side effects, including low blood counts
  • Radiation side effects, including confusion, headaches, nervous system (neurologic) problems, and tissue death
  • Return (recurrence) of the lymphoma


Calling your health care provider:



Prevention:



References:

DeAngelis LM. Tumors of the central nervous system and intracranial hypertension and hypotension. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 199.

National Cancer Institute. Primary CNS lymphoma treatment (PDQ) . 2009. Accessed February 25, 2009.




Review Date: 3/2/2009
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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