Living as a Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Survivor: The Importance of Follow-up Care
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is a cancer of the lymph tissue that affects millions of Americans each year. Lymphocytes are part of the body’s immune system, and there are lymph tissue sites all over, meaning the cancer can develop in and spread to different places and at different rates. The symptoms one experiences may also be different based on where in the body the cancer originated. And, regardless of the specific type of cancer, each person who receives the diagnosis has a different experience during and after treatment, as well as in remission living as a survivor.
NHL is one of the most commonly seen cancers. It affects children and young adults the most. According to the American Cancer Society, the average American has a 1 in 50 chance of developing this disease. Often, this type is curable and the prognosis is higher for its aggressive forms. New developments such as the improved stem cell transplants procedure, greater understanding of the genetic components of cancer, targeted drugs that attack the cells of a specific problem area instead of the whole body, all have drastically improved the disease’s prognosis.
NHL stems from B cells and T cells, which are involved in the body’s immune response. The more common of the two is the B cell variation of NHL. However, there are multiple subtypes even within the designation of B cell and T cell.
The course of treatment is decided based on the type of NHL. The most important distinction is whether or not the cancer is an indolent or aggressive lymphoma. In the case of indolent lymphomas, sometimes, urgent treatment is not needed. Generally, treatment is begun right away and then the person is watched closely. However, immediate treatment is needed for an aggressive lymphoma. Treatment includes chemotherapy and radiation. However, these can create havoc in the body.
Life During Treatment
Regardless of the type of cancer, treatment for it is a rough process. Some side effects can have lasting impacts, such as problems with memory, and brain fog. For female patients, their fertility may be affected, although certain side effects dissipate once the treatment has ended.
Before treatment begins, discuss with your doctor the potential long-term side effects. To improve one’s cancer outcome, a healthy diet has been shown to be helpful. In general, the doctor’s will try to keep your body healthy since aggressive cancer treatments slow down the process of repair in the body.
For anyone currently suffering or who has previously suffered from these treatments, health insurance is especially important. You will need insurance to cover the crucial follow-up doctor’s appointments, medical tests, and cancer recurrence treatments. Be sure to keep your medical records even when in remission.
Remission is the goal with any cancer treatment program. However, there is always a risk of recurrence, especially in patients with indolent NHL. A second cancer may occur as well, which could be unrelated. To reduce such risks, certain lifestyle changes need to be made. These include living actively and refraining from tobacco products and smoking. However, cancer might still return even with such measures taken.
Talk to your doctor about the survivorship care plan. The next steps may seem to be less overwhelming, but make sure to stick to your follow-up care by making follow-up appointments. This will improve your long-term outcome. To prevent a dangerous recurrence, actively monitor your body’s cancer status. Remediation of the program as early as possible is the best course of action to take if any abnormality is detected in a scan or follow-up appointment.