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Expert Analysis Highlights:
The story of actor Michael C Hall, the star of the television hit “Dexter” shows how cancer can affect all age groups, including young adults. Michael reportedly was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in January, 2010; a relatively common among young adults who develop cancer. Fortunately, this type of cancer is very curable, depending upon the extent (stage) of disease. When Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients have very limited disease (usually confined to one area of lymph nodes) the treatment is radiation therapy. For many patients, there is more extensive disease and chemotherapy is given, with or without radiation therapy. It is rigorous to receive chemotherapy, but usually tolerable especially in young adults.
Since so many patients are “cured”…we don’t use this term in the medical literature but describe success in terms of 5 and 10-year survival rates…there is a risk for such patients enjoying long-term survival for having long-term side effects of chemotherapy or radiation therapy, or of developing second cancers of a different type than their first cancer. Therefore, it is important for survivors to continue having regular follow-up, at least on an annual basis for their lifetime.
We are thankful that Michael Hall had a successful treatment and has returned to his acting career. We are also grateful that he was so public about his cancer diagnosis and treatment—including getting his Golden Globe Award with a bald head—because his story inspires other cancer patients that they too can make it successfully through their cancer treatment and then enter into a period of cancer survivorship.
Michael C. Hall developed a very treatable and curable form of cancer as a young adult. Other types of cancers that can occur in this age group include melanoma of the skin, soft tissue cancers (sarcoma) of the bone or soft tissue, and leukemia’s. Occasionally, cancers that occur in older adults can afflict young adults. This especially includes breast cancer in women and colorectal cancer in men and women.
The treatment of Hodgkin Lymphoma depends upon the stage of disease. In very early Hodgkin Lymphoma that is isolated to one area, radiation therapy may be given. The most common presentation of Hodgkin’s disease requires a combination of both chemotherapy and radiation therapy to the areas where lymphoma is known to exist. With modern day treatment, the cure rate for Hodgkin’s disease exceeds 85-90%. Recently, a major advance was made in Hodgkin’s Lymphoma was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (August 12, 2010). This large study, conducted in Europe, of over 1300 patients with Hodgkin’s disease demonstrated that a less intensive regimen of chemotherapy plus radiation therapy was equally effective and less toxic than the standard or conventional schedule of chemotherapy and radiation therapy which involved a longer administration of drugs and a higher dose of radiation.
All of us, as physicians, celebrate the victories such as Michael C. Hall’s where he obviously suffered from his cancer and the side effects of his chemotherapy (which he displayed at the Golden Globe Awards) but having gotten past his treatment, he has now returned to work as an outstanding actor and, hopefully, he will not have any late relapses from his Hodgkin’s disease or any long term side effects from his cancer treatments.
For those who want additional information about Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, there is a nice 3 minute video (above) from the Lance Armstrong Foundation website that summarizes the treatments.
For more information also visit our companion website, patientresource.net.