Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system. It develops in lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell. These cells help fight disease in the body and play an essential role in the body’s immune defenses. As this type of cancer is present in the lymph system, it can quickly metastasize, or spread, to different tissues and organs throughout the body. Lymphoma most often spreads to the liver, bone marrow, or lungs.
People of any age can develop lymphoma, but it is among the most common causes of cancer in children and young adults aged 15–24 years. It is often treatable. In this article, we look at the symptoms of lymphoma, how to treat it, and the risk factors for the different types.
There are two main types of lymphoma: Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Within these, there are many subtypes.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which is the most common type, typically develops from B and T lymphocytes (cells) in the lymph nodes or tissues throughout the body. Tumor growth in non-Hodgkin lymphoma may not affect every lymph node, often skipping some and growing on others. It accounts for 95% of lymphoma cases.
According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), non-Hodgkin lymphoma accounts for 4.2% of all cancers in the United States, and a person’s lifetime risk of developing it is about 2.2%.
Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer of the immune system, and doctors can identify it by the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells, which are abnormally large B lymphocytes. In people with Hodgkin lymphoma, the cancer usually moves from one lymph node to an adjacent one. The NCI estimate that Hodgkin lymphoma accounts for 0.5% of all cancers and approximately 0.2% of people in the U.S. will receive a diagnosis in their lifetime.
The symptoms of lymphoma are similar to those of some viral diseases, such as the common cold. However, they typically continue for a more extended period. Some people will not experience any symptoms. Others may notice a swelling of the lymph nodes. There are lymph nodes all around the body. Swelling often occurs in the neck, groin, abdomen, or armpits.
The swellings are often painless. They may become painful if the enlarged glands press on organs, bones, and other structures. Some people confuse lymphoma with back pain. Lymph nodes can also swell during common infections, such as a cold. In lymphoma, the swelling does not resolve. Pain is also more likely to accompany the swelling if it has occurred due to an infection.
The overlap of symptoms can lead to misdiagnosis. Anyone who has persistently swollen glands should see their doctor for a consultation. Other symptoms of both types of lymphoma may include:
- ongoing fever without infection
- night sweats, fever, and chills
- weight loss and reduced appetite
- unusual itching
- persistent fatigue or a lack of energy
- pain in lymph nodes after drinking alcohol
Some additional symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma include:
- persistent coughing
- shortness of breath
- pain or swelling in the abdomen
Pain, weakness, paralysis, or altered sensation may occur if an enlarged lymph node presses against spinal nerves or the spinal cord. Lymphoma can spread rapidly from the lymph nodes to other parts of the body through the lymphatic system. As cancerous lymphocytes spread into other tissues, the immune system cannot defend against infections as effectively.
The course of treatment depends on the type of lymphoma a person has and the stage it has reached.
Indolent, or slow growing lymphoma may not need treatment.
Watchful waiting may be enough to make sure the cancer does not spread.
If treatment is necessary, it may involve the following:
- Biologic therapy: This is a drug treatment that stimulates the immune system to attack the cancer. The drug achieves this by introducing living microorganisms into the body.
- Antibody therapy: A medical professional inserts synthetic antibodies into the bloodstream. These respond to the cancer’s toxins.
- Chemotherapy: A healthcare team administers aggressive drug treatment to target and kill cancer cells.
- Radioimmunotherapy: This delivers high powered radioactive doses directly into cancerous B cells and T-cells to destroy them.
- Radiation therapy: A doctor may recommend this type of therapy to target and destroy small areas of cancer. Radiation therapy uses concentrated doses of radiation to kill cancerous cells.
- Stem cell transplantation: This can help restore damaged bone marrow following high dose chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
- Steroids: A doctor may inject steroids to treat lymphoma.
- Surgery: A surgeon may remove the spleen or other organs after the lymphoma has spread. However, a cancer specialist, or oncologist, will more commonly request surgery to obtain a biopsy. ……………… Continue Reading………..