Spleen Cancer: Causes & Treatment

About Spleen Cancer:

Spleen is an important organ of the body located just under the ribcage. The spleen plays a crucial role in fighting off many infections and forms an important part of the lymphatic system of the body. Its ability to fight off diseases makes it also a major member of the immune system of the body. Some of the functions of the spleen include filtering blood. The spleen also plays a key role in the removal of damaged and necrosed cells from the body and prevents it from accumulating. It also stores blood cells and plays a part in sending blood to the liver. If the spleen is removed then certain important functions of the body may get affected but it is possible to survive without a spleen.[2]

The spleen may be removed when it gets damaged as a result of an injury or trauma. Certain medical conditions like cancer also make it mandatory to remove the spleen from the body. If the spleen is removed from the body then the affected individual needs to take extra precautions to prevent any infections from setting in. Spleen Cancer is quite a rare phenomenon when compared to other organs like the pancreas or the liver which surround it. Tumors in the spleen can be divided into two types, namely non-lymphoid and lymphoid.[1]

There are no specific clinical features that can be observed in people with spleen cancer. In most cases, they can mimic features of other medical conditions. Enlargement of the spleen is a common feature along with pain in the left upper quadrant. The area will also be tender to palpation. In some cases, the affected individual will also have features of systemic illness like fever and cachexia.[1]

The best way to diagnose spleen cancer is by doing a CT scan of the abdomen. This will quite clearly show the lesion of which a biopsy can be taken and a diagnosis of spleen cancer can be made. This article highlights some of the potential causes of spleen cancer, different treatment options for it, and ways to prevent it.[1]

What Causes Spleen Cancer?

What Causes Spleen Cancer?

As stated, Spleen Cancer is a rare entity. According to various research work that has been done on this topic only around 2% of people with known diagnosis of lymphoma have Spleen Cancer and 1% in cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The form of cancer that is commonly seen in the spleen is termed as splenic marginal zone lymphoma which is a variant of the non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In majority of the cases, spleen cancers occur as a result of metastasis with the primary source being from some other place in the body.[2]

Leukemia and lymphoma are the two most common types of cancers that lead to cancer of the spleen. However, it most of the cases it is difficult to find a cause for lymphoma. However, researchers have come up with a few risk factors which increase the likelihood of an individual developing lymphoma resulting in Spleen Cancer. Age is a major factor which determines whether an individual is at risk for developing lymphoma. The more the age of the individual the higher are the chances.[2]

Additionally, males are more likely to develop lymphoma resulting in Spleen Cancer than females. An individual with a known family history of lymphoma is also at an increased risk for developing spleen cancer. People with a compromised immune system or have medical conditions which affect the immunity of the body are also at increased risk for developing lymphoma leading to Spleen Cancer.[2]

Some studies have suggested a connection between chronic infections and increased risk of hepatitis C which further increases the likelihood of an individual developing spleen cancer. Researchers have also found out that people who are frequently exposed to chemicals compounds like monomer vinyl chloride also have increased risk for developing Spleen Cancer.[2]

How is Spleen Cancer Treated?

The primary mode of treatment for Spleen Cancer includes surgical removal of the diseased part of the spleen or removal of the spleen in its entirety. This will be followed by radiation and chemotherapy as is done in other forms of cancer. In most cases, however, studies have shown that once the diseased part of the spleen is removed then there is no other treatment required for at least five years.[2]

In some cases, people have responded extremely favorably to a medication called rituximab and in fact physicians believe this drug to be as effective as surgically treating the cancer. If the cancer does not seem to be progressing and is completely asymptomatic then the physicians may opt for a wait and watch approach with periodic tests and checkups.[2]

Prevention of Spleen Cancer

As stated, researchers have found a close association with Spleen Cancer and hepatitis C virus. Thus they believe that preventing hepatitis C may in turn prevent the occurrence of Spleen Cancer. Since hepatitis C virus is carried in the blood thus it is important to pay attention when getting ear or belly piercing done and ensuring that only sterile equipment is used.[2]

Caution should also be maintained when getting involved in sexual intercourse especially with partners who have not been tested for hepatitis C or any other sexually transmitted diseases. It is also extremely important for people to never share needles or injection syringes to prevent any communicable diseases like hepatitis.[2]

Additionally, it is preferable to have a diet low on fats and maintaining a healthy body weight. This is because excess body weight has been linked to increased incidences of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.[2]

In conclusion, Spleen Cancer is quite a rare entity and occurs mainly in the form of lymphomas. The root cause of lymphoma and resulting spleen cancer is not yet known but there are certain risk factors that increased the likelihood of an individual developing this condition. Spleen Cancer is seen more in males than females and that too in the elderly population. It is very rare for Spleen Cancer to occur in younger population.[1, 2]

People with a compromised immune system also are at increased risk for developing Spleen Cancer. Some studies have suggested a close link between hepatitis C and Spleen Cancer. Thus preventing hepatitis C infection plays a major role in the prevention of Spleen Cancer. The primary mode of treatment for Spleen Cancer is either complete or partial removal of the spleen. Studies have suggested that once surgery is done in most cases no other treatment is required for at least a period of five years.[1, 2]

For cases where the cancer has spread to the spleen from somewhere else in the body then treating the primary source become a priority followed by radiation and chemotherapy. Thus it is recommended, then if an individual has pain in the left upper quadrant and there is palpable tenderness then a checkup is mandatory [1, 2].

The physician will do a CT scan of the abdomen and if lesions in the spleen are observed then a biopsy will be conducted to confirmatively diagnose Spleen Cancer. If the diagnosis is confirmed then treatment should be started for Spleen Cancer to prevent unwarranted complications.[1, 2]

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