Lymphoma treatment: does this sound plausible?

OK, I have a friend (seriously!) who claims that her husband was. . . miraculously cured of lymphoma (10+ years ago). The story, as presented, was that they did surgery to remove the. . . tumor? lymph nodes? in his arm, and he didn’t need any further treatment, other than waiting for his incision to heal.

Personally, I think the guy is kinda shady, and he’s feeding her a line.

So. . .

Does this sound like a plausible diagnosis/treatment for lymphoma? (She has told me this story several times, and each time I have asked “Are you sure he said ‘lymphoma’ and she has always said ‘Yes.’”)

She’s never heard this from his doctor, only from him.

Doesn’t sound believable to me (an internist).

Lymphoma confined to one lymph node area is curable, but AFAIK, treatment in that regard involves radiation and not surgery (and not chemo).

More generally, aside from an initial biopsy, I don’t believe there is any role for surgery (to remove diseased nodes) in lymphoma. Period.

Perhaps I am not understanding your reply, but there certainly is a role for surgery and for chemotherapy in the treatment of Lymphoma.

My wife has non-Hodgkins (sp?) lymphoma. This was diagnoised through a biopsy of a swollen lymph node and by microscopic examination of her white blood cells. She has never had any tumors. She was treated using Retuxin (a monoclonal antibody) seven years ago and is about to undergo the same treatment again. Her oncologist has suggested that, if she stops responding to the Retuxin, she will then need to have chemotherapy or that he will remove her spleen.

The sister of a friend of mine also had NHL, in her case a very aggressive strain. She had several tumors surgically removed. Then they tried to replace her bone marrow but she died of a fungal infection.

When I was working in a cancer diagnosis lab, we would routinely receive lymph nodes from lymphoma patients that had been taken out. Whether it was done as treatment or merely for further testing, no one bothered to inform us. Now, I think the idea that someone could be cured simply by removing a lymph node is highly doubtful, but they do get removed during treatment.

The surgery was the biopsy. The, um, “diagnosis” before the biopsy was lymphoma. After the biopsy, they determined that there were no cancerous cells. Would a doctor have likely mentioned “possible lymphoma” before a biopsy?

Yes. Part of the informed consent for the biopsy would require the doctor to explain why they were performing the biopsy.

So, if your friend had a negative biopsy… he never had lymphoma.

Is it possible that she misunderstood and he said “Lipoma”?

Surgery is uncommonly used to treat lymphoma, whether non-Hodgkin’s or Hodgkin’s type:

*There are three main reasons why surgery may be performed:

Obtain a sample of tissue to help in diagnosis or staging (a biopsy)
Remove an organ that is badly affected by lymphoma, most usually the spleen
Reduce the volume of lymphoma before other treatments, especially in the case of aggressive non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma involving the intestines.*

Hodgkin’s lymphomas may still be surgically staged, but my impression is that this has become less common.

In our surgical pathology laboratory, we receive lymph node and other specimens all the time to “rule out lymphoma”. If a lymph node does show lymphoma, the disease is not generally considered “cured” without further treatment since it’s a systemic disorder. Localized tumors in non-lymphoid tissues like the thyroid might be entirely removed without requiring further treatment, depending on lymphoma type.

Without more information it’s impossible to say whether your friend had lymphoma in the first place, thought that story doesn’t sound heavily plausible.