Primary CNS Lymphomas | Neurology & Neurosurgery | Loyola Medicine

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Primary Central Nervous System (CNS) Lymphomas

Overview and Facts about Primary Central Nervous System (CNS) Lymphomas

Primary central nervous system (CNS) lymphomas are a type of cancer that forms in a particular part of the brain and spinal cord called the lymph system. The lymph system is a part of the immune system that stretches throughout the entire body and helps to clear the body of toxins with the help of lymphocytes.

In primary CNS, these lymphocytes become cancerous and spread through the lymph system to the brain, causing a tumor to form.

Signs and Symptoms of Primary Central Nervous System (CNS) Lymphomas

Symptoms of primary CNS lymphomas all depend on where the tumor is. They may include:

  • Changes in mental alertness
  • Confusion
  • Double vision
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Facial weakness
  • Headaches
  • Loss of hearing
  • Seizures
  • Weakness in the arms and legs

Causes and Risk Factors Primary Central Nervous System (CNS) Lymphomas

Having a compromised immune system (due to a condition like AIDS), having previously had an organ transplant or having another problem with your immune system can increase your chances of getting primary CNS lymphomas.

Additionally, this type of cancer is more common in men than in women.

Otherwise, doctors aren’t sure what causes primary CNS lymphomas to develop.

Tests and Diagnosis of Primary Central Nervous System (CNS) Lymphomas

You’ll need to schedule an appointment with a neurology/neurosurgery department if you think you have primary CNS lymphomas. A neurologist will run a number of tests to determine if you have this type of cancer, including:

  • A lumbar puncture, which collects fluid from your spinal column for testing
  • A neurological exam that checks how well your nerves, spinal cord and brain are functioning
  • A PET scan, which takes pictures of places in the body that are using a lot of sugar (tumors consume a lot of sugar)
  • A physical exam that looks at your outward signs of health
  • A slit-lamp eye exam to look inside your eye
  • An MRI to get detailed images of the spinal cord and brain

Treatment and Care of Primary Central Nervous System (CNS) Lymphomas

Treating primary CNS lymphomas depends on the severity of your condition. Common techniques include:

  • Chemotherapy, which uses drugs to kill cancer cells
  • Radiation therapy, which uses high-energy X-rays to damage cancer cells
  • Steroid therapy, which can stop cancer cells from dividing