One of many types of cancer that can develop in the lymphatic system, mantle cell lymphoma is a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, affecting only about one in 200,000 Americans annually. Of the cases diagnosed, about 75% are in men age 60 and older.
What is mantle cell lymphoma?
To understand a diagnosis of mantle cell lymphoma, it is helpful to briefly consider where in the body it develops. The term “lymphoma” refers to cancer of the body’s lymphatic system, a network of tissues and organs that produce white blood cells to fight off infections and other diseases. These cells travel through the body via a clear fluid called “lymph.”
The lymphatic system comprises lymph nodes, bone marrow and lymphatic vessels, as well as the spleen and thymus. Of the white blood cells produced, two types are known as lymphocytes: B cells and T cells. Mantle cell lymphoma develops in the B lymphocytes. In fact, it is a subtype of B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
As with other forms of cancer, lymphoma is a malignancy caused by abnormal cell growth. In the case of mantle cell lymphoma, the cancer starts in the outer edge of a lymph node follicle, an area known as the mantle zone. When uncontrolled, the cancer cells can spread, or metastasize, to other parts of the body, where they can interfere with normal cell activity and cause serious damage.
What are the common symptoms of mantle cell lymphoma?
Many people with mantle cell lymphoma have no symptoms during the early stages of the disease. When symptoms begin, they are often similar to those caused by a wide variety of other health conditions, which makes mantle cell lymphoma somewhat challenging to diagnose.
Perhaps the most telling sign of mantle cell lymphoma is the persistent, painless swelling of lymph nodes in the neck and throat areas. As with other types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, mantle cell lymphoma can also cause lymph node enlargement in the elbows, shoulders and armpits as well as the chest, stomach and groin areas.
Additional symptoms of mantle cell lymphoma may include:
- Persistent or recurring fever
- Nausea, indigestion and lack of appetite
- Stomach pain and bloating
- Unintentional weight loss in a short time period
- Night sweats that soak the bed sheets
- Fatigue and lack of energy
What causes mantle cell lymphoma?
Research is ongoing, but the exact cause of mantle cell lymphoma is unknown. Scientists have identified a characteristic shared by most patients with this type of lymphoma: a genetic abnormality affecting certain chromosomes. This abnormality and other genetic changes may trigger the overproduction of a protein that causes tumor cell division and growth. Researchers continue to study whether family history, environmental factors or both play a role in the genetic changes that may lead to mantle cell lymphoma.
How is mantle cell lymphoma diagnosed?
This type of cancer is often diagnosed after routine lab tests reveal an elevated number of lymphocytes in the patient’s blood or when a doctor discovers a swollen lymph node while conducting an unrelated physical exam. After that, the patient’s next step is diagnostic testing, which will likely include a biopsy.
For a biopsy, a small tissue sample is removed and analyzed under a microscope to determine whether cancer cells are present. The tissue sample is usually obtained through outpatient surgery or, in some cases, by using a long, thin needle to draw fluid from the area where cancer is suspected.
If a diagnosis of mantle cell lymphoma is confirmed, the doctor will determine what stage the cancer is in. Because patients with this type of lymphoma often display no symptoms or have symptoms that are similar to those of other health conditions, mantle cell lymphoma is often diagnosed in its late stages.
How is mantle cell lymphoma treated?
Several factors go into an oncologist’s strategy for mantle cell lymphoma treatment, including:
- The stage of the disease
- The location and specific characteristics of the cancer
- The patient’s age, symptoms and overall health
For patients who are diagnosed with a less aggressive form of mantle cell lymphoma, physicians may recommend a short period of “watchful waiting”—or monitoring the cancer progression before starting active treatment. Patients with a more aggressive form will likely start treatment shortly after receiving the diagnosis. An oncologist may prescribe one or more of these treatments for mantle cell lymphoma:
- Chemotherapy – cancer-fighting drugs that directly attack and slow cancer cell replication
- Immunotherapy – medication, typically monoclonal antibody rituximab, that enhances the ability of the body’s immune system to fight cancer
- Autologous stem cell transplant – a procedure in which a patient’s healthy, blood-forming stem cells are collected and later used to replace cancer cells that were destroyed by chemotherapy or radiation
- Radiation therapy – use of high-energy beams to destroy or damage cancer cells
What does Moffitt Cancer Center offer patients with mantle cell lymphoma?
Thanks to our groundbreaking research, robust clinical trial program, and personalized approach to cancer treatment, Moffitt offers hope to patients who come to us with a mantle cell lymphoma diagnosis or who have symptoms of the disease. The multispecialty lymphoma treatment team in our highly respected Malignant Hematology Program takes a collaborative approach to develop individualized treatment plans for each patient.
Moreover, as a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, we’re committed to staying at the forefront of scientific advances for lymphoma diagnosis and treatment. This means our patients have access not only to traditional mantle cell lymphoma treatment methods but also breakthrough therapies before they’re widely available.
Whether you turn to us for a consultation about your symptoms or you have already received a mantle cell lymphoma diagnosis, Moffitt is here to help. We recognize the importance of moving fast when cancer has been diagnosed or is suspected. Therefore, we’re committed to connecting new patients with a cancer expert within one day of their reaching out to us.
Mantle Cell Lymphoma - StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf
Types of B-cell Lymphoma
Mantle Cell Lymphoma Facts
Risk Factors for Etiology and Prognosis of Mantle Cell Lymphoma - PMC
Mantle Cell Lymphoma - NORD (National Organization for Rare Disorders)