Lymphoma is a cancer that affects the cells in the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is made up of a network of vessels that carry a fluid called lymph. This fluid carries white blood cells (lymphocytes) which attack bacteria, viruses and many pre-cancerous cells before they grow.
Dr Ang Peng Tiam, medical director of Parkway Cancer Centre, explains that when cancer strikes, the abnormal lymphocytes begin to multiply uncontrollably. It gathers in lymph nodes or lymph tissues such as the spleen, and tumours form as these cells mass together. Abnormal lymphocytes can also travel from one lymph node to the next, and sometimes to the remote organs via the lymphatic system.
Dr Ang shares this particularly compelling case study with us:
Case Study: Stopping Lymphoma in Time
In May 2010, Adrian Fonseca consulted a stomach specialist due to stomach pains. The specialist’s diagnosis within five seconds and quickly concluded that Adrian was “in a mess”, and that he probably has lymphoma. This came as a shock to Adrian, who was a father of three. He felt like he was in a fog, a déjà vu scene as his own father fell victim to lung cancer.
The biopsy results confirmed that the 41-year-old had Stage III lymphoma. It was then that he decided to seek out Dr Ang.
Dr Ang gave Adrian chemotherapy combined with monoclonal antibodies. In total, Mr Fonseca went through six cycles of chemotherapy treatment between May and September 2010. Every treatment showed a dramatic response. After three cycles, the Positron Emission Tomography and Computed Tomography (PET-CT) scan was essentially normal.
The chemotherapy initially left Adrian very weak. He was unable to even open a bottle, lost his hair and had no appetite. However, by the end of July, he was getting better and was able to do two or three hours from home.
Over the course of treatment, Adrian became stronger. He spent more time with his family, going on long walks with his wife and playing with his children. He described the period as a rewarding one, having time at home with the family and the opportunity to reassess his life.
Adrian completed all six cycles of treatment and is currently in remission. He is presently receiving monoclonal antibody to prevent the cancer from recurring. He has since returned to his old work routine, but with a new lifestyle. He makes a conscious effort to eat a balanced diet, exercises regularly, and no longer drinks beer or liquor.
He sees his lifestyle change as ‘saving for a rainy day’. According to him, “Too many people focus on remedies for ill health.” He prefers a preventive measure and is currently ‘putting money in his health bank’.
New ways to fight lymphoma
According to Dr Ang, two major advances have made significant difference in the treatment of lymphoma. The first is pathology. With the use of immunohistochemistry and molecular genetic studies, doctors are now able to subtype lymphomas more accurately. With the advanced knowledge and increased accuracy, medical professionals can devise more effective treatment for the various types of lymphoma.
The other major advancement is the use of Rituximab, a targeted agent against lymphoma of the B-cell type. The use of this monoclonal antibody has improved response and cure rates of patients with malignant lymphoma. However, Dr Ang warns that no one should take these for granted. Not all types of lymphoma are curable, and the earlier the treatment, the better the chance for recovery.
Publication of article by courtesy of Dr Ang Peng Tiam, medical director of Parkway Cancer Centre