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Primary CNS Lymphoma

< Brain and Spine Cancer

Primary CNS lymphoma

About Primary CNS Lymphoma

Primary central nervous system (CNS) lymphoma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the lymph tissue of the brain and/or spinal cord.
Lymphoma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the lymph system. The lymph system is part of the immune system and is made up of the lymph, lymph vessels, lymph nodes, spleen, thymus, tonsils and bone marrow. Lymphocytes (carried in the lymph) travel in and out of the central nervous system. It is thought that some of these lymphocytes become malignant and cause lymphoma to form in the CNS. Primary CNS lymphoma can start in the brain, spinal cord or meninges (the layers that form the outer covering of the brain). Because the eye is so close to the brain, primary CNS lymphoma can also start in the eye (called ocular lymphoma).


General symptoms can include:

  • Changes in vision or a partial loss of vision
  • Headache
  • Loss of sensation in a particular area
  • Muscle weakness in a particular area, for example, in one limb
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Problems with balance
  • Seizures

Risk Factors

Primary CNS lymphoma is an uncommon form of lymphoma. The average age at diagnosis is around 60. It is slightly more common in people who have a weakened immune system, which might be caused by:

  • Drugs that are used to suppress the immune system following an organ transplant, or other types of immunosuppressive treatment, for example, for rheumatological conditions