What symptoms might follicular lymphoma patients experience as a trigger for treatment? Dr. Jane Winter shares insight about common symptoms that indicate treatment should begin for optimal patient care.
Dr. Jane Winter is a hematologist and medical oncologist at Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center at Northwestern University. More information on Dr. Winter here.
Dr. Winter, what are signs that it is time to treat a patient’s follicular lymphoma?
Symptoms are the trigger, most often.
Sometimes, the trigger for treatment is a big enough mass that it’s pushing on something important, for example, the ureter, which is the tube from the kidney to the bladder. And if we have a large mass that either wraps around that ureter or just pushes on it sufficiently to block drainage, it’ll result in a decline in kidney function. So, a rising creatinine may be the signal that things are progressing and it’s time for treatment. Sometimes, the follicular lymphoma involving the lining around the lung can lead to what we call a pleural effusion, fluid in that space. It’s a potential space between the lung and the chest wall.
So, an accumulation of fluid there restricts the ability to take a deep breath, and that may be an indication for treatment, or just the overall total mass of disease is becoming such that it results in fatigue and is beginning to impair the quality of life and what we call performance status. So, those are triggers for treatment. Decline in blood counts is another. So, follicular lymphoma very commonly involves the bone marrow, and as it progresses and replaces the normal blood cells, it will result in a decline in the red cell count, the hemoglobin that carries oxygen. So, it results in tiredness or shortness of breath, or a low white count such that the numbers of infection fighting cells is compromised.
Or also at the same time, often the platelet count. And platelets are those little flecks in the blood smear that help to clot blood and prevent bleeding. And so, as they decline, we sometimes see little red spots called petechiae on the lower extremities. But, that’s a pretty uncommon sign in follicular lymphoma. Most often, it would be just a mild anemia that flags progression and bone marrow involvement. So, all of those. So, multi-disease, disease that causes symptoms, disease that causes fluid accumulation around the lung or obstruction of some important organ.
These are all the signs that it’s time to think about treatment.