During a 10-year period, 28 patients with spinal cord compression due to epidural malignant lymphoma and 47 patients with cerebral involvement of lymphoma were treated with radiation at our institution. Fifty-four percent of the patients with spinal cord compression had this complication at the time of initial presentation of the disease, whereas only 4% with cerebral involvement presented with CNS symptoms. Only one patient had primary lymphoma solely located in the brain. Characteristically, a majority of the patients with spinal cord compression complained of back pain several months before developing neurological symptoms. Because only one-third of the patients had positive spine roentgenograms at the time of spinal cord compression, a CT scan is suggested in patients with malignant lymphoma suffering from back pain in order to verify a paraspinal lymphoma. Thus spinal cord compression may be avoided by early diagnosis and treatment. Among the patients with spinal cord compression, Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's histology were equally represented, whereas only 6% had Hodgkin's lymphoma among the patients with cerebral involvement of lymphoma. The response to treatment defined as improvement in neurological deficit in the patients with spinal cord compression was approximately 90% in both the Hodgkin's and the non-Hodgkin's group. No difference in response was found among patients who had laminectomy compared to patients who did not. Patients receiving high dose, short-term treatment (5 Gy × 5-6) responded equally to patients receiving low dose, long-term treatment (2 Gy × 18-20). The median survival from initiation of radiation therapy in patients developing spinal cord compression or cerebral involvement during relapse was 30 months. In patients with spinal cord compression at initial presentation of the disease, median survival had not been reached after 5 years. Among patients with cerebral involvement 50% had improvement of neurological symptoms with not differences between patients receiving high dose, short-term and patients receiving low dose, long-term treatment. It is concluded that high dose, short-term irradiation is as effective as low dose treatment. Especially in patients with neurological complications at relapse, this treatment schedule is preferred because of the extremely short survival of these patients. © 1986.
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