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CNS lymphoma

CNS lymphoma is a type of tumour that starts in the central nervous system (CNS). They are usually high grade and represent under 5% of brain tumours. A common treatment for CNS lymphomas is chemotherapy.

On this page, we’ll cover:

What is a CNS lymphoma?

A lymphoma is a tumour caused by the uncontrolled growth of the lymph cells. These are a type of white blood cell that help the body fight infection.

There are many different types of lymphoma. Usually they form in the lymph nodes around the body.

Rarely, a lymphoma can form in other places, such as the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain and spinal cord.

It could form as a tumour that presses on the brain or spinal cord from outside.  Or, less commonly, it could form as a tumour within the meninges (the membranes covering the brain). If it forms in the meninges, it could be called a primary cerebral lymphoma or a primary CNS lymphoma.

CNS lymphomas represent just under 5% of brain and spinal cord tumours.

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CNS lymphoma grade

CNS lymphomas are usually high grade and are a type of ‘non-Hodgkin lymphoma’ called ‘diffuse large B cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma’. (Hodgkin lymphoma is a different illness entirely).

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CNS lymphoma causes

As with most brain tumours, the causes of CNS lymphoma are not entirely known.

But, it can be caused by a number of medical conditions, like:

  • Having a weakened immune system, which can be caused by HIV.
  • Taking immunosuppressants, which are drugs that are often given after an organ transplant.

But, while these are risk factors, most people who develop these tumours don’t have immune system problems.

It’s important to know that there’s nothing you could have done or avoided doing that would have affected whether you developed a CNS lymphoma.

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CNS lymphoma symptoms

The CNS lymphoma symptoms might be different depending on where the tumour is located in the central nervous system and how fast it grows.

That being said, CNS lymphoma symptoms could be:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Seizures (fits)
  • Cognitive difficulties, like trouble concentrating remembering things
  • Speech problems, like difficulty speaking
  • Vision problems, like blurred vision or blind spots
  • Balance issues
  • Personality changes, like a change in behaviour

You can learn more about brain tumour symptoms here.

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Treatments for CNS lymphoma

CNS lymphomas are treated differently to other brain tumours in that the main treatment is usually chemotherapy. 

Some people may also have radiotherapy after the chemotherapy.

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We understand that prognosis can be difficult to read about. So, when you are ready, you can learn about the CNS lymphoma survival rate by clicking the drop-down below.

The CNS lymphoma survival rate is unfortunately quite low. Depending on the affected person’s health as well as the tumour location and growth, prognosis can be very different from person to person.

There aren’t any UK statistics for the CNS lymphoma survival rate. But, we do have statistics for the USA. It’s important to understand , though, that these don’t represent the UK because of our different healthcare systems, population, and systems for collecting data.

With that in mind, the CNS survival rate is:

  • Approximately 40% of people with CNS lymphoma live for 5+ years after diagnosis
  • Approximately 30% of people with CNS lymphoma live for 10+ years after diagnosis

These are given in 5 and 10 year intervals because this is what doctors and specialists use to measure survival rates. They are not meant to show a limit. For example, someone who is a 5 year survivor could live as long as any other healthy person.  

If you have any questions or would like to talk to someone about this, please get in touch with our kind and approachable Support Team.

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