Published on October 14, 2020
What Should Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Patients Know?
How is non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) defined? How and why does it occur in the body? What should a patient’s first step be after diagnosis? Listen to a doctor and NHL expert answer these questions as he gives helpful information and advice to newly diagnosed non-Hodgkin lymphoma patients. This includes the importance of determining your NHL subtype and exciting developments in treatment options. Dr. Jonathan Friedberg is the director of the Wilmot Cancer Institute and a professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Rochester.
Transcript | Doctor Shares Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Information and Advice
Dr. Friedberg: This is a disease that in several different ways, people are trying to tackle it. And I am confident that with all these additions to our therapeutic armamentarium, we're going to see better outcomes.
I chose lymphoma as a subspecialty for a number of reasons. I thought the science was incredibly interesting. Lymphoma affects all different ages of people and all different types of people, and I think that gives me a broad perspective and clinic, which I find very enjoyable.
What Is Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer of a type of blood cell called a lymphocyte. Normally lymphocytes are cells that are designed to fight infection. And when you get non-Hodgkin lymphoma, those lymphocytes develop mistakes in them. And as a result of those mistakes, the lymphocytes are making too many copies of themselves and not dying like they should.
How Long Does It Take to Get the Proper Diagnosis for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?
Now the first thing to appreciate when you have a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma is that that is a very broad term and it really describes many different diseases. So, the first step is to figure out what subtype or what specific lymphoma you have. And that's done generally through a lymph node biopsy where an expert called a hematopathologist looks under the microscope and characterizes the lymphoma in several different ways. Sometimes this can require multiple biopsies in order to get a definitive diagnosis, but it's critical that a definitive diagnosis be made in order to make treatment decisions.
What Is the Prognosis for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?
A large subset of patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma have disease that is curable, meaning that we can treat the disease with a goal of having that disease go away and never come back. Other subsets of non-Hodgkin lymphoma are not curable, but highly responsive to treatment such that median survivals may exceed 20 years or more.
Just this summer, four new drugs or strategies have been approved by the FDA for the treatment of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. And that just gives you a sense as to the pace of our success in coming up with new treatments, which I believe strongly will translate into better prognosis for patients.