Adult T-cell leukemia lymphoma (ATL), a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, is a rare form of cancer found in the body’s own infection-fighting immune system. When functioning properly, T-cells serve as a barrier between the body’s healthy cells and a variety of illnesses.
Adult T-Cell Leukemia Lymphoma Signs & Symptoms
Like other forms of leukemia, ATL is characterized by an enlarged spleen, lymph nodes, and liver. Other symptoms can include night sweats, fatigue, fever, and a condition called pruritis (a feeling of the persistent need to scratch).
Adult T-Cell Leukemia Lymphoma Diagnosis & Staging
There are four types of ATL:
- Acute: Symptoms such as enlarged lymph nodes appear and worsen quickly. Hypercalcemia, a condition in which there is a high level of calcium in the blood, is another common symptom. This condition can cause irregular heart rhythms and painful constipation.
- Lymphomatous: This form is found only in the lymph nodes and is not known to metastasize to other parts of the body
- Chronic: This form of ATL is defined by enlarged lymph nodes in the groin and under the arms, as well as in the spleen and liver, although lymph nodes anywhere in the body can be affected. Chronic ATL is typically slow to progress.
- Smouldering: Characterized by a few skin lesions, this form of ATL is also usually very slow to spread.
Doctors will typically do a biopsy, cutting away a small piece of the tumor for further examination under a microscope, to make a definite diagnosis. Further tests may be required, such as scans of the chest, abdomen, liver, or spleen, or a bone marrow biopsy.
Adult T-Cell Leukemia Lymphoma Treatment
Doctors rely on most of the traditional methods such as chemotherapy and radiation to treat ATL, with mixed results. Many doctors prescribe combinations of powerful medications to complement the intense and physically demanding treatments. Depending on the type of ATL the patient has, a bone marrow transplant may be a possibility when the other forms of treatment have been completed.
Adult T-Cell Leukemia Lymphoma Outlook
ATL is one form of cancer that the medical community is working diligently to learn more about so that more effective treatment methods can be developed. At present, patients diagnosed with ATL have a short life expectancy. Although most of the standard courses of both traditional and alternative treatments have proven to be effective for some patients, ATL remains an aggressive form of cancer that is difficult to treat.