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What is Lymphoma?

June 24, 2022

What is Lymphoma?

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Lymphoma is a malignancy that starts in the immune system’s infection-fighting cells called lymphocytes. These cells are found in the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus, bone marrow, and other areas of the body.

Lymphoma is primarily of two types, namely:

  1. Non-Hodgkin, most people with lymphoma have this type.
  2. Hodgkin

Different lymphocyte cells are involved in non-Hodgkin and Hodgkin lymphoma. Lymphoma grows at different rates and responds to therapy in diverse ways.

Lymphoma is a very curable cancer, and the prognosis varies depending on the kind and stage of the cancer. Lymphoma is often misunderstood as leukaemia, but the truth is they’re two distinct types of cancer. Each of these malignancies develops from a distinct type of cell. Lymphoma develops from infection-fighting cells. Leukaemia begins in the bone marrow’s blood-forming cells.

Causes

In most cases of lymphoma, even scientists are not able to predict what the actual causes of it are to be. Some of the common risk factors of being prone to lymphoma include:

  • People in their 60’s or older are easily diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • People between the ages of 15-40 or older than 55 are susceptible to Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • Men are more likely to be affected by lymphoma than women, although most subtypes are more common in women.
  • Having a weak immune system due to HIV/AIDS, an organ transplant, or being naturally born with an immune deficiency.
  • Having been affected by a virus such as Epstein-Barr, hepatitis C, or human T-cell leukaemia/lymphoma (HTLV-1)
  • Having a close relative who has lymphoma
  • If you were ever exposed to benzene or chemicals that kill bugs and weeds.

Symptoms

Some of the warning signs that shouldn’t be avoided.

  • Swollen glands, often in the neck, armpit, or groyne, are usually painless.
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Itching

Since most of these symptoms can be warning signs of other illnesses, it is advised to consult your doctor to make sure you have lymphoma.

Diagnosis

Before getting into the process of testing you, the doctor will want to know the following things.

  • How you’ve been feeling lately.
  • The first changes you noticed.
  • If there is pain, and if there is, where?
  • How has your appetite been lately?
  • Have you lost any weight recently?
  • Do you often feel weak or tired?
  • If you’re going through any medication or treatment?
  • Your reports of past problems and treatments.
  • Family medical history.

A physical exam will be performed by your doctor, including a check on swollen lymph nodes. This does not particularly mean you have cancer. This is a common cause of many infections unrelated to cancer.

Your doctor will perform a lymph node biopsy to check for cancer cells. To perform the biopsy, the doctor will remove all or part of a lymph node or, with the use of a needle, take a small amount of tissue from the affected node.

There are a few other ways to diagnose lymphoma too. Some of which are:

  • Bone marrow aspiration or biopsy – Your doctor will use a needle to remove the fluid or tissue from your bone marrow.
  • Chest X-ray. Using low doses of radiation, images of the inside of your heart will be taken.
  • MRI – With powerful magnets and radio waves, a technician will make pictures of organs and structures in your body.
  • PET scan – This imaging test scan uses radioactive substances to find cancer cells in your body.
  • Molecular test – The purpose of this test is to help your doctor in figuring out what type of lymphoma you have by finding changes in genes, proteins, and other substances in cancer cells
  • Blood tests – These check the number of specific cells, levels of other substances, or evidence of infection in your blood.

Treatment

The treatment solely depends on the type of lymphoma and the stage it is present at that time. The primary treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma are:

  • Chemotherapy kills cancer cells using drugs.
  • Radiation therapy destroys cancer cells using high radiation.
  • Immunotherapy makes your body’s immune system capable of fighting cancer cells.
  • Targeted therapy is a therapy that targets the aspects of lymphoma cells to restrict their growth.

The primary treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma are:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Radiation therapy

If none of these treatments proves efficient, your doctor will advise you for a stem cell transplant. At first, you will be given a high dosage of chemotherapy. This treatment will kill all the cancer cells and destroy the stem cells. After chemotherapy, you will be going through a stem cell transplant.

Stem cell transplant is of two types that can be performed:

  • An autologous transplant is a type of stem cell transplant that uses your stem cells.
  • An allogeneic stem cell transplant is a type of stem cell transplant that uses stem cells from a donor.

Taking care of yourself after the treatment

There might be a lot of side effects after treating lymphoma. Consult your doctor about how to relieve symptoms. Ask them about a change in your diet and exercises to follow after treatment. Ask your dietician about what foods to consume if you are unsure. Activities such as walking and swimming will help overcome fatigue during treatment times.

People also ask

1. What are the first signs of lymphoma?

The first signs of lymphoma that cannot be ignored are

  • Swollen glands, often in the neck, armpit, or groyne, are usually painless.
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Itching

Since most of these symptoms can be warning signs of other illnesses, it is advised to consult your doctor to make sure you have lymphoma.

2. What are the main causes of lymphoma?

In most cases of lymphoma, even scientists are not able to predict what the actual causes of it are to be. Some of the common risk factors of being prone to lymphoma include:

  • People in their 60’s or older are easily diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • People between the ages of 15-40 or older than 55 are susceptible to Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • Men are more likely to be affected by lymphoma than women, although most subtypes are more common in women.
  • Having a weak immune system due to HIV/AIDS, an organ transplant, or being naturally born with an immune deficiency.
  • Having been affected by a virus such as Epstein-Barr, hepatitis C, or human T-cell leukaemia/lymphoma (HTLV-1)
  • Having a close relative who has lymphoma
  • If you were ever exposed to benzene or chemicals that kill bugs and weeds.

3. Is lymphoma considered cancer?

Lymphoma is cancer affecting the lymphatic system, a part of the body’s germ-fighting network. The lymphatic system comprises the lymph nodes (lymph glands), spleen, thymus gland and bone marrow. Lymphoma can primarily affect those areas but can also spread to other parts of the body.

Disclaimer: We recommend consulting a Doctor before taking any action based on the above shared information.


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Department

Medical Oncology

Medical Oncology

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