How Palliative Works with Leukemia and Lymphoma
Leukemia and lymphoma are two different forms of blood cancer. Leukemia affects blood and bone marrow. Lymphoma affects the cells of the immune system that fight infection and is commonly found in the lymph nodes, bone marrow, thymus, and spleen.
While there are some similarities in these two types of blood cancers, there are also many differences in the symptoms, treatment, and survival rate. But in both cases, palliative care for leukemia and lymphoma can be a welcome partner in managing side effects of treatment as well as to helping patients find the care and support they need.
Leukemia occurs when the bone marrow begins producing too many abnormal white blood cells. Instead of dying off in a normal cycle, these abnormal white blood cells rapidly multiply and crowd out healthy blood cells, which leads to fewer healthy white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.
Symptoms of leukemia can include:
- Persistent fatigue and weakness
- Fever and/or chills
- Frequent infections
- Weight loss
- Swollen lymph nodes, enlarged liver or spleen
- Easy bruising or bleeding
- Petechiae - tiny red spots due to bleeding under the skin
- Bone pain or tenderness
- Excessive sweating
Treatment for leukemia varies from monitoring the progression of slow-growing leukemia to more robust treatments including chemotherapy, radiation, and stem-cell transplants for aggressive leukemias.
Lymphoma begins in the immune system and affects the lymph nodes and lymphocytes. There are two main types of lymphoma:
- Hodgkin lymphoma, which affects the Reed-Sterberg cell, a specific type of abnormal B cell.
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which starts in either B or T cells and is more common.
Symptoms of lymphoma vary depending on which type of lymphoma the patient has.
Hodgkin lymphoma symptoms include:
- A lump under the skin, often in the armpit, neck, or groin area
- weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Night sweats
- Severe itching
- Increased sensitivity to alcohol
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma symptoms include:
- A swollen abdomen
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Feeling full after eating only a small amount of food
- Cough or shortness of breath
- Chest pain or pressure
- Weight loss
Treatment for both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma includes chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, stem cell transplant, and drug therapies.
How Palliative Care Supports Patients with Leukemia or Lymphoma
Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care provides added support to people facing serious illness. The palliative care team includes a nurse practitioner and social worker who work to manage symptoms and connect patients to resources in their community. Unlike hospice care, which requires a terminal diagnosis, palliative care for leukemia or lymphoma can begin when a patient receives their diagnosis.
The palliative care team works in conjunction with the patient’s current team of physicians to ensure all of the patient’s needs are being met. While the oncologist focuses on curative treatment, the palliative care team will focus on managing side effects from that treatment and providing education and additional resources.
Some side effects a patient might encounter during cancer treatment include nausea, vomiting, hair loss, fatigue, discomfort, and depression. A patient may also experience difficulties in understanding their options in terms of treatments and community support. The palliative care team knows how to address these concerns with education, complementary treatments, and resource gathering.
How to Begin Palliative Care for Leukemia or Lymphoma
When a patient receives a diagnosis of leukemia or lymphoma, they can request a referral to palliative care. The palliative care team will visit the patient in their home and work with the patient to define their goals for care.
Although living with a serious illness can be challenging, the palliative care team is an advocate for the patient’s overall quality of life and will work to ease their symptoms and concerns.
For more information on palliative care for leukemia or lymphoma, please call us at 1-888-564-3405.
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