Possible Complications of Mantle Cell Lymphoma

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on March 05, 2024
3 min read

Mantle cell lymphoma not only comes with signs and symptoms of the disease itself, but the late-stage cancer can also lead to other health problems. Some of the problems may be side effects of your treatment. Others could be a result of just how much the cancer has spread and where.

It’s important to know what the possible complications of mantle cell lymphoma may be. That way you can be on the lookout for symptoms and let your doctor know if they arise.  Some complications of mantle cell lymphoma may be:

Swollen lymph nodes. They are usually painless bumps or lumps that develop mostly within the neck and throat area. They can also show up in other areas of your body that have lymph nodes, such as:

  • Elbows
  • Shoulders
  • Armpits
  • Chest
  • Abdomen
  • Pelvic area

Swelling may be in one part of your body only or in several parts.

Anemia. Cancerous white blood cells can spread to your bone marrow. This spongy tissue inside your bones produces oxygen-carrying, iron-rich red blood cells. If the cancer reaches it, it could decrease the production of those important cells. This can lead to a condition called anemia. If you have anemia, your symptoms may include:

  • Extreme tiredness
  • Pale skin
  • Headaches

Anemia may also increase your risk for infection and cause you to bruise and bleed more easily than usual. If you notice these symptoms, tell your doctor about it.

Thrombocytopenia. Mantle cell lymphoma cells in the bone marrow can crowd out healthy blood cells and lead to a low platelet count. This is called thrombocytopenia. Platelets help curb internal or external bleeding by clotting and plugging blood vessels when you have cuts, bruises, or injuries. When the count is dangerously low, it can cause internal bleeding, which needs immediate medical attention.

Neutropenia. Your bone marrow also produces white blood cells called neutrophils. They protect your body from certain infections, especially those caused by bacteria. Mantle cell lymphoma can lead to neutropenia -- a condition that you develop when you have too few neutrophils.

B symptoms. You may develop some general symptoms and complications known as “B symptoms.” They affect about one-third of people with mantle cell lymphoma.

B symptoms include:

  • Unexplained weight loss (more than 10% of what you weighed about 6 months before your diagnosis)
  • Night sweats
  • Frequent fevers

Gut issues. In rare cases, if the lymphoma spreads to your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, it could lead to multiple polyps in your intestines. This can cause a slew of gut problems, such as:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Back pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Swelling in your belly

Central nervous system lymphoma. In rare cases, the lymphoma can spread to the brain or the spinal cord and affect the central nervous system. When this happens, it can cause:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Problems with movement and coordination
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Personality changes
  • Seizures

Different treatments for mantle cell lymphoma may come with different side effects. Most people who get chemotherapy for mantle cell lymphoma, for example, develop some of the following side effects:

  • Fever
  • Low blood counts that can cause anemia or neutropenia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Flushing
  • Itching
  • Pain in the abdomen, chest, and back
  • Dizziness
  • Problems with thinking, memory, and focus
  • Infertility
  • Early menopause
  • Hair loss
  • Sleep problems
  • Bowel problems
  • Infections

Other possible complications of chemotherapy include:

Tumor lysis syndrome. It’s a serious life-threatening side effect that can begin after you start chemo. When the tumor cells die from the treatment, they can release toxins into your bloodstream, which can cause symptoms like:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blood in the urine
  • Heart problems
  • Seizures
  • Muscle cramps

Cardiotoxicity. Chemo can damage the heart muscle and affect its ability to pump blood throughout your body.

Neurotoxicity. In some cases, chemo can damage your nervous system’s ability to function properly.

Your side effects and their severity may depend on the dose and frequency of your treatment. Your doctor will discuss possible complications and side effects before starting you on any treatment.

Be sure to let your doctor know about any other medication you take. This includes vitamins, herbal supplements, over-the-counter medicines, and recreational drugs. This can help you avoid drug interactions and other preventable side effects.