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Diseases reference index «Primary lymphoma of the brain»

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

Causes

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)

Primary lymphoma of the brain is also linked to Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) infection, the virus that causes mononucleosis.

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

Symptoms

Exams and Tests

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

  • Biopsy of the brain
  • CSF cell count
  • CSF total protein
  • Head CT scan or MRI

Treatment

The condition is usually first treated with corticosteroids to control any local swelling and improve symptoms. 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 (intrathecally).

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.

Outlook (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.

Possible 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

Alternative Names

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

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