Primary bone lymphoma is a rare subtype of lymphoma that starts in the bone marrow and affects the skeletal system. Chronic pain is the most common symptom. Treatment typically includes chemotherapy and radiation.

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Lymphoma is cancer that develops in your body’s lymphatic system. Your lymphatic system is part of your immune system. It includes your lymph nodes, bone marrow, and spleen.

Primary bone lymphoma is a rare subtype of lymphoma that begins in your bones. Only about 3 to 7 % of all bone tumors are caused by primary bone lymphoma. Less than 2% of all people diagnosed with lymphoma are diagnosed with the primary bone lymphoma subtype.

The cause of primary bone lymphoma is unknown. However, having a previous organ transplant or a previous infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus is linked to an increased risk.

Primary bone lymphoma is a subtype of lymphoma. It starts in the bone marrow and affects skeletal tissue. While many types of lymphoma affect the bone marrow and skeletal system, primary bone lymphoma is unique because it only affects the bone marrow and skeletal tissues.

Most primary bone lymphomas are further subtypes of diffuse B-cell lymphoma, a subtype of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Primary bone lymphoma can be a subtype of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but this is rare.

Primary bone lymphoma destroys healthy tissues and bone. This leads to chronic pain. For most people with primary bone lymphoma, pain is the primary symptom.

Additional symptoms can include:

Although rare, it’s also possible for tumor growth to press on spinal bones. This can compress the spinal bone and cause neurological symptoms, such as:

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, medical and family medical histories of cancer. They’ll also conduct a physical exam and will check painful areas for swelling, tenderness, hard masses, and swollen lymph nodes.

If your doctor suspects primary bone lymphoma, they’ll order tests to confirm the diagnosis. Common diagnostic tests may include:

  • Imaging tests: Imaging tests such as X-rays can help doctors see the inside of your bones. This will allow them to see tumors and bone damage caused by primary bone lymphoma. You might also have tests such as MRIs, CT scans, or PET scans to look at tumor growth and cancer spread.
  • Blood tests: Blood tests will measure the levels of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. These cells can all be affected by primary bone leukemia.
  • Bone marrow biopsy: A bone marrow biopsy is done by inserting a long, hollow needle into a bone. Doctors can then remove pieces of bone, bone marrow, and tumor material. These samples will be examined in a lab under a microscope and tested for cancer.

Primary bone lymphoma staging

Cancer staging is a way of determing how far cancer has advanced or spread. It helps doctors plan treatments and discuss possible outcomes.

Primary bone lymphoma is staged on a scale that ranges from 1 to 4, with 4 being the highest or most invasive. Staging is determined by the:

  • size of the tumor
  • location of the tumor
  • involvement of lymph nodes
  • spread of cancer to other areas of the body

Primary bone lymphoma is rare, and there isn’t a single preset treatment plan. Your doctor will base your treatment plan on factors such as:

  • tumor size
  • how far the cancer has spread
  • your overall health
  • your age
  • your medical history

Common treatments include:

  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy medication destroys cancer cells and prevents them from growing and spreading.
  • Radiation: Radiation uses high doses of radiation beams to kill cancer cells. It can be used on its own or together with chemotherapy.
  • Surgery: Unlike some types of cancer, tumor removal surgery isn’t typically part of the treatment for primary bone lymphoma. However, you might have surgery to help stabilize any bones that have been damaged or weakened by tumors.

The outlook for primary bone lymphoma depends on many factors. Because primary bone lymphoma is rare, some of these factors are still not fully understood.

Compared with more common types of cancer, there isn’t as much data on the survival rates for primary bone lymphoma. However, researchers have determined that one of the primary factors that affect a person’s outlook appears to be treatment.

According to research, people who receive chemotherapy and radiation together have a 5-year overall survival rate of 84%. On the other hand, people treated with only chemotherapy have a 5-year overall survival rate of 56%.

Other factors, such as your stage at diagnosis, age, and overall health, will also significantly impact your treatment outlook.

Primary bone lymphoma is a rare subtype affecting the bone marrow and skeletal system. Pain is typically the main symptom of primary bone lymphoma.

Treatment for primary bone lymphoma commonly includes chemotherapy and radiation. Some research shows that people who receive both chemotherapy and radiation have better outcomes than those who receive only one of these treatment types.