Lymphoma refers to cancer that occurs in the lymphatic system of our body, the system that is responsible for immunity in our body. Our lymphatic system consists of bone marrow, lymph nodes, spleen, and the thymus gland. When lymphoma occurs, it can be in any of these areas . Sometimes, cancer may even spread to the surrounding tissues and organs as well. Among the different types of lymphoma that occur in the body, the two most common types are:
- Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
Both the above types of lymphoma can occur both in children and adults. The treatment for lymphoma is based on the site of origin of the disease, the type of lymphoma, and the severity of the disease.
How do you know if you have developed lymphoma?
In the majority of cases, people don’t know they have developed lymphoma until it has spread to the surrounding areas. This is because the symptoms of lymphoma are quite similar to common viral infections. If you are having prolonged fever without any infection, unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, or extreme fatigue, then your doctor might ask you to do the necessary tests for lymphoma. A complete blood count (CBC), biopsy, MRI and PET scan, X-ray, and Ultrasound may help the doctor to diagnose that you have developed a particular type of lymphoma.
Most of the lymphomas come out from the two main types of white blood cells known as lymphocytes namely B cells (B lymphocytes) and T cells (T lymphocytes).
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is the most common form of lymphoma that tends to develop in older individuals. There are many types of treatment that can be used against non-Hodgkin lymphoma, such as radiation therapy, immunotherapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy and stem cell transplantation.
Hodgkin lymphoma, also called Hodgkin’s disease, generally starts in a type of B cell which is found in the bone marrow. Hodgkin lymphoma is considered one of the most curable forms of cancer, especially when it’s diagnosed and treated early. There are many types of treatment that can be used against Hodgkin lymphoma, such as immunotherapy, chemotherapy and stem cell transplantation.
Symptoms of Lymphoma
Lymphoma symptoms may vary depending on the type of lymphoma you are suffering from. Some common symptoms are discussed below:
- Prolonged or episodic fever
- Continuous fatigue and weakness
- Swellings or tumours in different parts of the body, such as in the neck, groin, armpits, which are mostly painless
- Chills followed by night sweats
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Irritation and itching in the skin
- Breathing difficulty, especially while climbing up the stairs, etc.
When to see the doctor
The symptoms may get worse with passing time, which is an indication in itself that it is time to see a doctor. If the symptoms discussed above continue for a prolonged period of time or go away and then recur, you should see the doctor at the earliest.
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Causes of lymphoma
Like most other cancers, the actual cause of lymphoma is still unknown. The genetic mutation of lymphocytes is believed to be the most common cause. The mutation tells your cell to multiply quickly, causing numerious diseased lymphocytes that continue multiplying.
The mutation also lets the cells to go on living while other normal cells may die. This results in too many ineffective and diseased lymphocytes in your lymph nodes and may cause the lymph nodes, spleen as well as the liver to swell.
the body like the liver, spleen, thymus, etc., which leads to their inflammation and swelling.
Risk factors of lymphoma
Lymphoma symptoms and incidence may be more pronounced in certain groups of people as compared to the others. These are discussed below:
Age. As discussed earlier, lymphoma is prevalent in both children and adults. Some types of lymphoma, like non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, are more common in children and older adults. Whereas Hodgkin’s lymphoma is more common in young adults, affecting the age group of mostly 15 to 24. So, age plays a role regarding the occurrence of the type of lymphoma.
Gender. Research suggests that males are more likely to suffer from one or the other type of lymphoma as compared to females.
A weak immune system. People with a weakened immune system due to HIV, continuous viral or bacterial infections, or due to prolonged consumption of drugs and alcohol are more likely to develop lymphoma.
Developing specific infections. Infections due to the EBV or the Epstein-Barr Virus or the Helicobacter pylori bacteria have been seen to transform certain lymphocytes and increase the risks of lymphoma.
The treatment for lymphoma depends on the stage and severity of your disease, along with your age and underlying health conditions. The focus is on destroying the cancerous cells so that the healthy cells can survive. This procedure may involve the following course of treatments:
Constant monitoring. Some kinds of lymphoma are not very lethal for the body, and the cancerous cells grow very slowly. In this scenario, the doctor will merely monitor your conditions by periodic tests and not subject you to any kind of treatment till there are any symptoms ·
Chemotherapy. Like other types of cancer, chemotherapy is the most accepted mode of treatment for lymphoma . This is the process by which the cancerous cells are treated by chemical drugs, mostly through intravenous(IV) treatment, to bring in their fast destruction and stop their multiplication.
Radiation. Radiation therapy is applied when chemotherapy is not 100 percent effective. In this method, the high energy radiations such as protons and X-rays are applied, that attack and destroy the cancerous cells.
Bone marrow transplantation. In this process, the infected or faulty bone marrow of the patient is suppressed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and then healthy bone marrow from a matching donor is infused in the body of the patient so that new and healthy blood cells grow from there.
Immunotherapy. In this procedure, specific drugs are used that arouse your immune system to destroy the cancerous cells. Sometimes, a cluster of T-cells or the fighter cells from your body are taken, and they are genetically engineered and reintroduced into your body so that they can fight the cancerous cells
Some complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are different types of cytopenia, including low levels of neutrophils, platelets, red blood cells, etc. \
Complications of Hodgkin’s lymphoma include a very weakened immune system, which eventually opens the doorway for the body for infections. Secondary cancers like leukemia, breast, and lung cancers may also develop later in the life of patients who have once developed Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
We hope that this article will help you to have a proper insight into lymphoma and how to treat the disease. Lymphoma symptoms should not be neglected as timely measures taken can aid your path of recovery.
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