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Alternative Names Return to topBrain lymphoma; Cerebral lymphoma; Primary lymphoma of the central nervous system; Lymphoma - brain
Definition Return to top
Primary lymphoma of the brain is cancer of the lymph cells that starts in the brain.
Causes Return to top
The cause of primary brain lymphoma is unknown. It is more common in people ages 45 - 70.
Patients who have a weakened immune system are at greater risk for primary lymphoma of the brain. Common causes of a weakened immune system include:
Lymphoma is also linked to Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) infection, the virus that causes mononucleosis.
The incidence of primary brain lymphoma is rising, but it is still relatively rare.
Symptoms Return to top
Exams and Tests Return to top
The following tests may be performed to help diagnose a primary lymphoma of the brain:
Treatment Return to top
The condition is usually first treated with corticosteroids. However, chemotherapy may increase survival by 3 - 4 years, or longer. The chemotherapy is usually high doses of methotrexate given through a vein (intravenously) or a spinal tap.
Treating patients with weakened immune systems is not as successful, but it is improving.
Radiation therapy used to be the main treatment for primary lymphoma of the brain. Now it is usually reserved for treating patients who do not respond to chemotherapy.
Treatment with multiple therapies (combination therapy) is common.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
The survival of untreated primary brain lymphoma is under 2 months. Treated with chemotherapy, patients often survive 3-4 years or more. About 40% of patients are alive at 5 years. In general, older patients have a worse outlook than younger patients.
Possible Complications Return to top
Possible complications include:
References Return to top
DeAngelis LM. Tumors of the central nervous system and intracranial hypertension and hypotension. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 199.
National Cancer Institute. Primary CNS lymphoma treatment (PDQ). 2009. Accessed February 25, 2009.Update Date: 3/2/2009 Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.