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Central Nervous System (CNS) Lymphoma

Central nervous system (CNS) lymphoma is a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer that starts in white blood cells. There are two types:

  • Primary CNS lymphoma starts in your nervous system. These include the eyes, brain, spine, and cerebrospinal fluid (the liquid around the brain and spinal cord).
  • Secondary CNS lymphoma starts in other parts of your body and spreads to your nervous system.

Primary vitreoretinal lymphoma (PVRL) is a rare form of primary CNS lymphoma. PVRL primarily affects the eyes and arises within the intraocular compartment (vitreous, retina, or optic nerve).

Unlike other systemic lymphomas, PVRL rarely involves other parts of the body beyond the CNS and eyes. However, there it can spread to the nervous system, which is why it’s important to have a team with experts in different areas to closely monitor your health.

Comprehensive CNS Lymphoma Care

CNS lymphoma is a challenging condition that requires specialized care. That’s why it’s important to have a team with expertise and experience in CNS lymphoma. The Lou and Jean Malnati Brain Tumor Institute of Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital offers comprehensive, multidisciplinary for CNS lymphoma. Our multidisciplinary team works together to provide each patient with seamless care through leading-edge treatments to ensure the best outcomes possible.

Our CNS Lymphoma team brings together experts in areas such as:

  • Neuro-oncology
  • Ocular oncology
  • Retina surgery
  • Neurosurgery
  • Skull base surgery
  • Hematology oncology
  • Stem cell transplant and cellular therapy
  • Hematopathology and cytology

Precise Diagnosis and Medical Treatment

A timely and accurate diagnosis is critical for the best-possible outcomes. Neuro-oncologists can distinguish CNS lymphoma from other brain and spine cancers. They will work with our expert Pathology team to determine the type of CNS lymphoma you have and make a personalized care plan for you.

Since CNS lymphoma affects the brain and spinal cord, it often causes your body to work abnormally. Our neuro-oncologists will help you manage symptoms and maintain your quality of life during and after treatment.

Surgical Expertise

Surgeons play a key role in managing CNS lymphoma. Their expertise helps accurately diagnose the condition, relieve symptoms and plan treatment.

Our surgical team includes experts in both eye surgery and brain surgery who often work together to to remove CNS tumors.

Surgery to treat CNS and eye lymphoma is often challenging because it includes complicated procedures. It is also often near delicate structures, like your cornea, lens, retina and brain. Our surgeons have experience and special training to treat CNS and eye lymphoma with precision and care.

What We Offer

  • Bone Marrow Transplants
  • Cellular therapies (CAR-T)
  • Chemotherapy
  • Clinical Trials
  • Custom-Designed Proton Beam Therapy
  • Endoscopic Surgery
  • Expert Pathology Reports
  • Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy
  • Minimally Invasive Supraorbital (Eyebrow) Craniotomy
  • Minimally Invasive Transorbital (Eyelid) Approaches
  • Multidisciplinary Tumor Board Case-Review
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Stem Cell Transplants
  • Targeted Systemic Therapies

Meet the Team


To make an appointment at Lou and Jean Malnati Brain Tumor Institute of Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, call us at 312.695.4360 or fill out a form.

Meet the Downtown Central Nervous System (CNS) Lymphoma Team

Why Choose Northwestern Medicine

  • Advanced diagnosis and treatment: At Northwestern Medicine, you will have access to the largest neuro-oncology team in the country, including world-renowned experts.
  • Northwestern Brain Tumor Board: This board reviews complex cases. The board includes leading experts in their fields, including:
  • Access to the first proton center in Illinois: Your care team at the Northwestern Medicine works closely with specialists at Northwestern Medicine Proton Center, one of the few proton therapy centers in the Midwest and the first in Illinois. Proton therapy provides precise amounts of radiation to treat tumors, limiting damage to nearby healthy tissue.
  • Expert pathology reports: Our renowned Neuropathology team specializes in treating tumors of the central nervous system. To evaluate these tumors, we use clinical, radiologic, pathologic and molecular data to make accurate diagnoses.
  • Methylation profiling: Methylation profiling helps accurately diagnose brain tumors based on their genetic makeup. It helps your care team predict how the tumor will respond to certain types of chemotherapy.
  • Dedication to research: We are committed to clinical research and bringing the most advanced treatments to our patients. This translates into better survival rates and quality of life for people with brain and spine tumors.
  • Pioneering new treatments Our physicians and research scientists seek new treatments for glioblastoma and other gliomas, brain metastases, meningioma, and other brain and spine tumors.
Locations & Contact Information
    23-2202g USNWR National Specialty Cards_NHM_National Neuro

    Northwestern Memorial Hospital
    Top 10 in Neurology & Neurosurgery (No. 10)

    23-2202b USNWR National Specialty Cards_NHM_National Cancer

    Northwestern Memorial Hospital
    Nationally recognized in Cancer (No. 18)

    Shedding Light On Primary Vitreoretinal Lymphoma

    In this podcast, Northwestern Medicine experts discuss primary vitreoretinal lymphoma (PVRL). This rare condition is often hard to diagnose and treat.