Thanks to advances in detection and treatment, people are living longer lives nowadays after treatment for lymphoma, but the disease can nevertheless still cause lasting health problems, some of which can be serious and may not show up until many years later. The world’s oldest and largest private cancer center, New York City’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center founded in 1884 as the New York Cancer Hospital, can now monitor survivors’ health at its new Lymphoma Survivorship Clinic.
Lymphoma, a form of blood cancer is one of the nation’s most commonly diagnosed cancers, and in their lifetime, the average American has a one-in-50 chance of developing Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, which accounts for some 85 percent of diagnosed lymphoma cases according to the American Cancer Society.
There are more treatment options than ever before for people with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of the two are typically used to treat the disease, with bone marrow or stem cell transplantation also sometimes options under special circumstances. Most persons with non-Hodgkin lymphoma live long and healthy lives following successful treatment, while approximately 30 to 60 percent of patients with a particularly aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma can be cured.
Today most people with one of the six types of Hodgkin lymphoma (HL – also known as Hodgkin’s disease), all relatively uncommon forms of the disease, can be cured. For many years, radiation therapy was the only type of treatment that people with Hodgkin lymphoma could receive, but today with HL treatments that may involve chemotherapy alone or a combination of radiation and chemotherapy,
Thanks to major advances in understanding and treatment of lymphoma, more people than ever are enjoying productive lives for years and even decades after being declared free of the disease, but even with improvements in radiation and chemotherapy that make these forms of treatment less damaging than they used to be, patients receiving them may still experience permanent damage, and doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering and elsewhere have found that over the course of time, many of these individuals will develop complications deriving from treatments they received, with increased risk of heart disease, skin cancer, lung conditions, problems with thinking and memory, and other illnesses.
Through careful monitoring and expert care, MSK’s Lymphoma Survivorship Clinic helps people who’ve survived lymphoma stay healthy by watching for long-term effects of treatment.
“Since we know that many of our patients may experience long-term problems, we decided to initiate a program that could help quickly identify and address them, explains MSK hematologic oncologist Mathew Matasar, who focuses on caring for patients with lymphoma observes cited by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Senior Web Editor Andrea Pierce in a MSK blog. Dr. Matasar, who has clinical expertise in both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, uses routine treatments, experimental therapies, and high-dose therapy with autologous stem cell rescue (autologous transplantation) in treating his patients. His particular research interests are focused on improving understanding of the long-term effects of lymphoma treatments, and on studying new ways to improve the quality of life for survivors of lymphoma. He is also exploring new treatments in the management of high-risk aggressive lymphoma and certain uncommon types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and is seeking even more ways to keep survivors healthy through clinical trials and other research.
Launched in 2014 and housed within the Lymphoma Service at MSKs 64th Street Outpatient Center, the Lymphoma Survivorship Clinic serves MSK survivors of all ages, as well as people initially treated for the disease at other institutions. Unlike MSK’s generalAdult Long-Term Follow-Up Program (ALTFU) is tailored to address the needs survivors of a range of childhood (and some young adult) cancers, the the Lymphoma Survivorship Clinic’s sole focus is survivors of lymphoma. The clinic starts caring for people as soon as three years after they end treatment.
Depending on such factors as the types of treatments survivors received and their general health when they were diagnosed with lymphoma, Dr. Matasar and two physician assistants in the clinic monitor survivors for:
• heart disease
• development of second cancers such as breast, lung, and skin cancer and leukemia
• thinking and memory problems (commonly known as “chemobrain”)
• lung health
• bone health
• problems with teeth and gums
• reduced thyroid function
• dry eyes, cataracts, and other eye issues
• emotional and psychological health
“And since the clinic is embedded in a comprehensive cancer center, were prepared not only to give people the latest in care, screening, and surveillance, but also to easily send them to our other MSK experts if needed people at the top of their field in survivorship issues such as heart, lung, and reproductive health,” Dr. Matasar explains.
As part of MSKs larger program in cancer research and survivorship, the the Lymphoma Survivorship Clinic is also able to offer access to clinical trials and other research that can help people facing the late effects of lymphoma treatment.
Current investigations are asking such questions as:
• How can doctors anticipate and assist women at risk for long-term sexual and reproductive health issues?
• Which interventions might best help problems with thinking and memory?
• Can cardiac MRI detect early changes in the heart among survivors of Hodgkin lymphoma?
“It’s high time that lymphoma survivors get a specialized clinic of their own such as this,” says Dr. Matasar. “In part because the clinic is right here, embedded in our Lymphoma Service, we can deliver just the kind of care these patients need.”
Founded in 1884, the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center — the world’s oldest and largest private cancer center — has devoted more than 130 years to exceptional patient care, innovative research, and outstanding educational programs. Today, MSK is one of 45 National Cancer Institutes designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, where state-of-the-art science flourishes side by side with clinical studies and treatment.
MSK’s cancer survivorship programs embrace the full cancer-care spectrum, from diagnosis to final outcome, whether that outcome is cure, chronic disease management, or end-of-life care. The Division of Survivorship and Supportive Care serves as an integrated academic and administrative home for the practitioners whose efforts are primarily focused on the support of cancer patients throughout this care continuum.
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
The Lymphoma Coalition
The Lymphoma Research Foundation
The American Cancer Society
The National Cancer Institute
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center