A Few Facts Worth Knowing About Spleen Cancer

The term spleen cancer doesn't refer to a single type of cancer that can affect the spleen. There are a number of different spleen cancers. Most are treated either by surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. Surgery can sometimes be a preferred option, since we can live with only a part of the spleen, or without a spleen if need be.

Lymphoma - There are two primary categories of spleen cancer. One category consists of various types of lymphoma. A significant portion of the spleen consists of lymph cells, hence the name lymphoma. Types of lymphoma that can affect the spleen include both Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, as well as T-cell lymphoma. There are a number of different sub-types of cancer within the non-Hodgkin's lymphoma type.

A lymphoma cancer can be particularly serious and potentially fatal, because the cancer originates in lymphatic tissue cells and therefore will sometimes spread rapidly throughout the lymphatic system. Similarly, lymphoma cancers located in other parts of the body will sometimes spread to the spleen by circulating through the lymphatic system. Cancers that metastasize, or spread throughout the body, can be particularly challenging to treat, although they often will respond to treatment. In fact, most instances of cancer of the spleen consist of a lymphoma cancer that has spread from another part of the body.

Tumors - The other type of spleen cancer involves malignant tumors. These tumors occur in the non-lymph tissues of the spleen. Surgery is often a preferred treatment in the case of tumor as the tumor can often be cut out of the spleen in those cases where the cancer hasn't spread, and when there are not multiple tumors involved.

Stages Of Cancer - Both the treatment and prognosis for spleen cancer will depend upon what stage the cancer is in. Staging is an indication of the severity of a cancer, and also of its extent. The stages of cancer are normally assigned the numbers 0 through 4. The stage of a particular cancer involves, among other things, tumor size, the number of tumors, whether lymph nodes are involved, how closely the cancer cells resemble normal cells, and whether or not metastasis is present.

In the case of a tumor in the spleen, stage 0 would indicate there is not evidence of a tumor, while stages 1 through 4 would indicate the size of the tumor, 4 being the largest. An X indicator would mean that a tumor cannot, for whatever reason, be evaluated.

In the case of a lymph node, stage 0 means than lymph nodes are not involved, while stages 1 through 3 indicated the number of lymph nodes involved and the extent of involvement. Similarly, the stages of metastasis are assigned numbers, with a 0 indicating metastasis is not present. Some cancers, such as leukemia, and some types of lymphomas, do not have a clearly defined staging system.

Prognosis And Survival Rates - The survival rate for cancer of the spleen depends of course on the type of cancer we are talking about. While lymphoma can sometimes be more difficult to treat than is the case with a tumor, the survival rate is in fact quite favorable. Hodgkin's lymphoma is in fact one of the most curable of all types of cancers, with a 5-year survival rate of 80% for adults and over 90% for children. The 5-year survival rate for Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is somewhat lower for adults, being between 60% and 65%, but it is still over 90% for children. In addition, there are many people who have not been cured, but nevertheless live for many years if the cancer goes into remission.

Symptoms - Unfortunately, many of the symptoms of spleen cancer do not point to the spleen as the source of the problem. Symptoms can include night sweats, fever and chills, frequent infections, bone or joint pain, fatigue, and easy bruising, all symptoms which could indicate almost anything, but when taken together may suggest the spleen could be the source of the problem. If the symptoms include a rapid heart rate, a high fever, bluish lips, or respiratory problems, it could well mean a life-threatening situation exists and one should seek medical attention as quickly as possible. While these symptoms don't have “spleen problem” written all over them, they tend to be serious symptoms no matter what the underlying cause, and the medical professionals in charge will soon be able to pinpoint the area in the body that requires treatment, in this case the spleen.

Risks - There really isn't a list of things that are known to directly cause cancer of the spleen. There are however a number of things that increase the risk of lymphoma, which as we have seen, can spread to the spleen. Risk factors include such things as family history of the disease, advanced age, infections, and a compromised immune system. Radiation and chemotherapy can also sometimes cause lymphoma to develop and affect the spleen. While we really don't know much about how to prevent cancer of the spleen from developing, we can at least take some comfort in knowing that it is usually treatable, and the prognosis is often quite positive.


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