New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg has lymphoma

U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.) has been diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma of the stomach after being hospitalized for treatment of a bleeding ulcer.

Lautenberg’s office issued a statement that his cancer would require treatment for the next several months but that it is “curable.” The 86-year-old Democrat is being treated at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City under the care of medical oncologist James F. Holland and cardiologist Martin Goldman.

“We expect a full and complete recovery for Senator Lautenberg,” Holland said. “The Senator will be treated with chemotherapy administered approximately every three weeks. We anticipate that he will receive between six and eight treatments, and in between treatments, the Senator is expected to be back at work in the Senate.” 

The National Cancer Institute defines B-cell lymphomas as “a type of cancer that forms in B cells (a type of immune system cell). B-cell lymphomas usually occur in adults and may be either indolent (slow-growing) or aggressive (fast-growing). There are many different types of B-cell lymphomas, and prognosis and treatment depend on the type and stage of cancer.” 

B-cell lymphoma is a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that an estimated 65,980 people were diagnosed with last year, according to the American Cancer Society. The cancer society estimated that 19,500 died of non-Hodgkin lymphomas in 2009.

One of the more common forms of this cancer is diffuse large B-cell lymphoma which accounts for one third of non-Hodgkin cases. This type of the illness often responds to chemotherapy. About half of those treated are cured with treatment. About 75 percent of the patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma  show no signs of the illness until they are diagnosed.

Radiation oncologist Maria Werner-Wasik of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia said that without more information it is difficult to determine what type of B-cell lymphoma Sen. Lautenberg has.

Still, Werner-Wasik said the his doctors’ decision to treat him with six to eight courses of chemotherapy suggested that he might have a stage 3 or stage 4 - the most serious and widely spread tumors - diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. At the same time an earlier stage with certain symptoms could lead to the same treatment. Without more information Werner-Wasik said it is impossible to give a meaningful prognosis.