Central Nervous System Lymphoma


Central nervous system lymphoma is a form of lymphoma that invades the covering of the brain and spinal cord (the meninges). It is a type of cancer of white blood cells (lymphocytes). While lymphomas can occur anywhere in the body, central nervous system lymphoma starts in the brain, the spinal cord, the meninges or the inside of the eye.


The main signs of this condition are headache and vomiting.

Causes and Risk Factors

It is not yet known what causes this disease.  

Several factors, however, may put a person at higher risk of developing this condition:

  • Being infected with certain viruses, including the Epstein-Barr virus (which causes mononucleosis) and HIV
  • Having a compromised immune system, including persons with AIDS or who have had an organ transplant and are taking drugs that suppress the immune system
  • Exposure to chemicals such as pesticides, solvents or fertilizers
  • Having a family history of individuals who have had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma


This condition can be diagnosed by examining the fluid that surrounds the brain and spine under a microscope to see if lymphoma cells are there.

Other tests that may be useful include:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which can give a doctor a clear image of the brain and the spinal cord
  • Gallium (radioisotope) scan. This scan is performed by injecting a small amount of radioactive gallium into the body. The small amount of chemical used is not harmful. The body is then scanned from several angles to see whether the gallium has collected in a tumor.
  • PET scan (positron emission tomography): PET scans measure metabolic activity in different parts of the body.


Depending on the cancer, surgery, radiation and chemotherapy may be treatment options.

© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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