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Primary lymphoma of the brain

  • Alternative Names

    Brain lymphoma; Cerebral lymphoma; Primary lymphoma of the central nervous system; Lymphoma - brain


    The condition is usually first treated with corticosteroids to control any local swelling and improve symptoms. However, chemotherapy may increase survival by 3 - 4 years, or longer. The chemotherapy is usually high doses of methotrexate given through a vein (intravenously) or a spinal tap (intrathecally).

    Treating patients with weakened immune systems is not as successful, but it is improving.

    Radiation therapy used to be the main treatment for primary lymphoma of the brain. Now it is usually reserved for treating patients who do not respond to chemotherapy.

    Treatment with multiple therapies (combination therapy) is common.

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    Expectations (prognosis)

    The survival of untreated primary brain lymphoma is under 2 months. Treated with chemotherapy, patients often survive 3 - 4 years or more. About 40% of patients are alive at 5 years. In general, older patients have a worse outlook than younger patients.


    Possible complications include:

    • Chemotherapy side effects, including low blood counts
    • Radiation side effects, including confusion, headaches, nervous system (neurologic) problems, and tissue death
    • Return (recurrence) of the lymphoma

    Calling your health care provider