• Large Cell Lymphoma Overview

    Large cell lymphoma is a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that can develop in lymph tissue in the skin, tissues under the skin, bone marrow and spinal fluid, gastro-intestinal track, spleen, liver and lungs as well as lymph nodes. There are several subtypes of large cell lymphoma, the most common in children are: 

    • Anaplastic large cell lymphoma
    • Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma

    Large Cell Lymphoma Treatment at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's

    Patients with large cell lymphoma are treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center through our Lymphoma Program. Continue reading to learn more about large cell lymphoma or visit the Lymphoma Program homepage to learn about our expertise and treatment options for this condition.

    Symptoms & Diagnosis

    Large cell lymphomas can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to many months to progress. Among the common symptoms of these lymphomas are:

    • Painless swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, chest, abdomen, underarm or groin
    • Respiratory symptoms, including shortness of breath, trouble breathing, wheezing, or high-pitched breathing sounds
    • Night sweats
    • Fatigue
    • Weight loss
    • Persistent abdominal pain
    • Masses in the skin

    A timely, accurate diagnosis is critical, as large cell lymphomas can grow quickly. The most common way to find out the exact kind of lymphoma is a biopsy to obtain tissue from an affected site, such as an enlarge lymph node. 

    Once the diagnosis of large cell lymphoma is known or suspected, tests are done to determine the where the lymphoma is in the body. This is also known as “staging”. Common tests include:

    • Physical exam to check for lumps from swollen lymph nodes
    • Diagnostic imaging scans from the neck to pelvis
    • Bone marrow aspiration (removal) and biopsy to look for lymph cells
    • Lumbar puncture (spinal tap)

    Other tests that may be done include:

    • Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan
    • Chest-x-ray.

    Blood tests and other tests such as an echocardiogram may be done as part of preparation for treatment but are not usually done to stage the lymphoma. After all necessary tests are completed, doctors will be able to outline the best treatment options, including clinical trials if any are available.

    Treatment & Care

    Treatment of large cell lymphoma depends on your child’s situation.  

    • Chemotherapy is always used but the exact drugs used and total duration of treatment vary by the kind of large cell lymphoma and the stage.
    • Surgery is rarely used for treatment but may be necessary for a biopsy.
    • Radiation treatment is rarely used.
    • Stem cell transplant is rarely used except as part of treatment for progressive or recurrent disease.

    Progressive or Recurrent Disease

    Children with progressive or recurrent disease are often treated with combination therapy or high-dose chemotherapy along with a stem cell transplant.

    Long-term Outlook

    The long-term outlook for children with large cell lymphoma is excellent. More than 80 percent of children are cured and can resume a normal life, returning to school, social activities and athletics usually within a year after treatment has finished.
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