Pancreatic lymphoma is a rare type of cancer originating from lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, in the pancreas. It falls under the broader category of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a group of lymphatic system cancers.

Pancreatic lymphoma can directly involve the pancreas or occur as a secondary manifestation of lymphoma that has spread from other parts of the body.

It is a rare condition with nonspecific symptoms that can make accurate diagnosis difficult. Treatment options may include chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or surgery.

This article examines the different types of pancreatic lymphoma, including symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and outlook.

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Different types of lymphoma can affect the pancreas, including those in the following two groups.

Primary pancreatic lymphoma

According to a 2021 article, primary pancreatic lymphoma (PPL) is a rare type of lymphoma originating within the pancreas.

Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma is the most common subtype of PPL. It is an aggressive form of lymphoma that originates from atypical B-cells, a type of lymphocyte. It can grow rapidly and may require prompt treatment.

PPL may also present as the following:

Secondary pancreatic lymphoma

Secondary pancreatic lymphoma refers to lymphomas that have spread, or metastasized, to the pancreas from other sites in the body. The pancreas is not the primary origin site for these lymphomas.

Secondary involvement of the pancreas can occur as part of more widespread lymphoma involvement. It is more common than PPL.

Difference between pancreatic cancer and lymphoma

Pancreatic lymphoma arises from lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. It is a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that can affect the pancreas. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a type of cancer.

However, other types of cancer can also affect the pancreas. Pancreatic adenocarcinoma is another type of the disease that originates from the cells lining the ducts of the pancreas.

Adenocarcinoma is the most common type of pancreatic cancer and arises from the exocrine cells responsible for producing digestive enzymes.

PLL typically has a more positive outlook than pancreatic adenocarcinoma, even in the advanced stages.

Doctors may use a biopsy to diagnose non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas, such as pancreatic lymphoma. A pathologist will examine the biopsy tissue under a microscope to determine the type of lymphoma and its characteristics.

Doctors may also use the following tests to identify the extent of the pancreatic lymphoma:

  • Blood tests: Blood samples can allow doctors to analyze the function of certain organs and check a person’s general health.
  • Imaging tests: Imaging techniques, such as CT scans, MRI, and PET scans, visualize the pancreas and surrounding structures, helping doctors identify abnormalities and evaluate the extent of the disease.

According to a 2021 article, there is no single ideal treatment approach for pancreatic lymphoma. It may depend on factors such as the lymphoma subtype, stage, and the patient’s overall health.

Treatment options may include:

  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is the main treatment for lymphoma. It uses drugs to kill or inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Doctors may use different chemotherapy plans according to the specific type of lymphoma.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses high energy rays to target and destroy cancer cells. Doctors may use this in combination with chemotherapy.
  • Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy stimulates the body’s immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells.
  • Surgery: Surgery is less common for pancreatic lymphoma in comparison with pancreatic adenocarcinoma. However, doctors may consider it in certain cases, especially for localized cancers.

The outlook for pancreatic lymphoma can vary depending on several factors, including the type of lymphoma, the stage at diagnosis, the patient’s overall health, and the response to treatment.

PPL is a rare condition, and the specific subtype of lymphoma may influence survival rates, making it challenging to provide precise figures.

However, a 2020 case report suggests that the 5-year survival rate for PPL is 26–66%.

Consulting with healthcare professionals who specialize in lymphomas and pancreatic conditions is the best way to get accurate and up-to-date information that is bespoke for a person’s specific situation.

Pancreatic lymphoma is a rare cancer originating from lymphocytes in the pancreas. It falls into the category of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and can develop directly in the pancreas or spread from elsewhere.

Symptoms of pancreatic lymphoma may include a swollen abdomen, abdominal pain, and nausea. People need to speak with a doctor if they suspect they have had issues with their pancreas.

Treatment typically involves chemotherapy. However, doctors may combine this treatment with others, such as radiotherapy.