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What Is Primary CNS Lymphoma?

Primary central nervous system (CNS) lymphoma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells arising from lymphocytes (white blood cells) form tumors in the brain or spinal cord. The tumor causes pressure on the surrounding brain structures and can cause significant neurological symptoms.

Symptoms of Primary central nervous system (CNS) lymphoma

Symptoms of Primary CNS Lymphoma include:

  • Changes in speech or vision
  • Seizures
  • Paralysis on one side of the body
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty walking

Causes of Primary CNS Lymphoma

The cause of primary CNS lymphoma is unknown. However, since primary CNS lymphoma arises from cells of the immune system, people with impaired immune systems and certain genetic and infectious diseases are at an increased risk of developing this form of cancer.

Diagnosis of Primary CNS Lymphoma

Primary CNS lymphoma often has a similar appearance on CT and MRI to other forms of brain cancer. Penn is able to offer the most advanced neuroimaging modalities, including MRI spectroscopy, to help differentiate between primary CNS lymphoma and other tumor types. In addition, blood tests and analysis of the cerebrospinal fluid may further assist diagnosis. However, a biopsy of the tumor is sometimes still necessary for definitive diagnosis. Penn neurosurgeons employ precision guided, minimally invasive biopsies using the latest neuro-navigation techniques. Likewise, Penn Center for Personalized Diagnostics helps to identify the exact the genetic signature of the tumor for a personalized approach to the treatment of every patient.

Treatment at Penn

Depending of the severity and extent of the cancer and your age and health treatment options may vary. Primary CNS lymphoma is most often treated with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. The multi-disciplinary team at Abramson Cancer Center is able to offer the cutting edge in tumor genetic sequencing, personalized medicine and chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and the latest in clinical trials.

Penn Programs & Services for Primary CNS Lymphoma

Brain Tumor Center-Dr. Steven Brem Looking at Brain Tumor Scans
Brain Tumor Center

The Penn Brain Tumor Center represents the forefront of the field of neuro-oncology, where new research discoveries are rapidly translated to innovative care and better treatment options for patients.

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