"My blood's trying to kill me."

By Colleen Murphy
July 16, 2021
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Blink-182's Mark Hoppus has been open about his cancer treatment journey over the past few weeks. And now, the 49-year-old is revealing the type of cancer he's been fighting: diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), an aggressive type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

"My cancer is not bone-related; it's blood-related. My blood's trying to kill me," Hoppus said in a recent video Q&A uploaded to YouTube.

The musician was diagnosed with the cancer in late April. He made the news public through a tweet back in June.

Since his announcement, Hoppus has been candid about his chemotherapy experience. "Everything about chemo sucks except the part where it hopefully saves my life," he tweeted on July 2.

Mark-Hoppus-Cancer-GettyImages-1200419100
Credit: Getty Images

The first round of chemo made him feel as though he "was a zombie that fell onto an electric fence and was just being shocked," Hoppus said in the Q&A. Each round of chemo after has had different effects, with the second making him feel "weak, tired," and as though he had the "worst flu ever." The third round made him nauseas. He's also says he has "chemo brain": "I forget things that I should just have on call, like people's names, song titles—anything. I just forget stuff."

While he's been candid about his treatment, this is the first time he's said what type of cancer he was diagnosed with—also revealing in the Q&A that his DLBCL is stage IV-A. "I don't know exactly how they determine the 'IV' part of it, but it's entered enough parts of my body that I'm stage IV which is, I think, the highest it goes."

As it turns out, Hoppus' mom also had (and survived) DLBCL. "I've been able to talk with her and bond with her quite a bit," he said.

As Hoppus continues his own fight with the disease—"We're beating this cancer. It's just a matter of time," he says—here's what you should know about DLBCL.

What is diffuse large B-cell lymphoma?

DLBCL is the most common type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer that starts in white blood cells called lymphocytes. Specifically, DLBCL affects the body's B-lymphocytes, which make antibodies to fight infections, according to the Lymphoma Research Foundation.

DLBCL can develop in the lymph nodes or in areas outside the lymph nodes, such as the gastrointestinal tract, testes, thyroid, skin, breast, bone, brain, or virtually any organ of the body. It may affect just one part of the body or spread throughout.

Every year, more than 18,000 people are diagnosed with DLBCL, according to the Lymphoma Research Foundation.

What are the symptoms of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma?

"[DLBCL] usually starts as a quickly growing mass in a lymph node deep inside the body, such as in the chest or abdomen, or in a lymph node you can feel, such as in the neck or armpit," according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). "It can also start in other areas such as the intestines, bones, or even the brain or spinal cord."

Oftentimes, "the first sign of DLBCL is a painless, rapid swelling in the neck, underarms, or groin that is caused by enlarged lymph nodes," the Lymphoma Research Foundation reports. The swelling may be painful for some people.

Besides the tumors themselves, other symptoms of DLBCL include fever, night sweats, and weight loss, per the National Cancer Institute. Other symptoms may be fatigue, loss of appetite, and shortness of breath.

What are the risk factors for large B-cell lymphoma?

While DLBCL can develop in someone of any age, even a child, "the occurrence of DLBCL generally increases with age, and most patients are over the age of 60 at diagnosis," according to the Lymphoma Research Foundation.

Besides being older, other risk factors for developing a non-Hodgkin lymphoma like DLBCL include:

  • Being a man
  • Being white
  • Having a first-degree relative with non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Having been exposed to radiation
  • Having a weakened immune system
  • Having certain autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjogren disease, or celiac disease

What is the prognosis of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma?

Again, DLBCL is aggressive, meaning it tends to grow quickly. Still, the Lymphoma Research Foundation considers the disease "potentially curable." In fact, the ACS reports that about 75% of people will have no signs of DLBCL after the initial treatment, and about half are cured. Important to note, the prognosis is typically more favorable for those who have a lower stage of the disease.

"Limited-stage disease (stages I and II) represents lymphoma affecting only one area of the body, while advanced-stage disease (stages III and IV) indicates that lymphoma has spread to several organs," according to the Lymphoma Research Foundation. Patients with DLBCL actually often have advanced-stage disease, but treatment can still be very effective.

How is diffuse large B-cell lymphoma treated?

The type of treatment someone will undergo depends on a number of factors, most notably the type of lymphoma and the extent (aka the stage) of the disease, per the ACS. But most often, the treatment is a combination of chemo and the monoclonal antibody rituximab. Referred to as R-CHOP, the treatment is most often given in cycles three weeks apart.

For someone with stage IV DLBCL, like Hoppus, most doctors will give 6 cycles of R-CHOP as first-line treatment. After several cycles, doctors may order imaging tests, such as a PET/CT scan, to see how well treatment is working.

Hoppus was scheduled to have a PET scan this week to see if his first three rounds of chemo treatment are working. Although he hasn't posted about the results of that scan yet, he can likely expect more rounds of chemo. As he explained in his Q&A video, even if the chemo has already worked completely, his doctors will still want him to undergo three more rounds of chemo "just to make sure." He'll also undergo more rounds if the chemo has been making some progress. If they find that the chemo has not worked as they had hoped, they will have to discuss other treatment options, which Hoppus said might include a bone marrow transplant.

"I'm going to beat this through chemotherapy or through bone marrow transplants, but either way I'm determined to kick cancer's ass directly in the nuts," he tweeted on July 10. "Love to you all. Let's. Heckin. Go."

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