Lymphoma is cancer that begins in infection-fighting white blood cells of the immune system, called lymphocytes. These cells are in the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus, bone marrow, and other parts of the body. When you have lymphoma, lymphocytes change and grow out of control.
There are two main types of lymphoma –
• Non-Hodgkin lymphoma( NHL), 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.
• 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.
Lymphoma symptoms can include –
• Painless swelling of one or more lymph nodes in your neck, armpits or groin.
• Persistent fatigue.
• Unexplained fever.
• Drenching night sweats.
• Shortness of breath.
• Unexplained weight loss.
• Itchy skin.
Both NHL and Hodgkin’s lymphoma can be classified into four stages. The state of lymphoma is determined by where the cancer is and how far it has or has not spread.
• Stage 1. Cancer is in one lymph node or one organ site.
• Stage 2. Cancer is in two lymph nodes near to one another and on the same side of the body, or the cancer is in one organ and nearby lymph nodes.
• Stage 3. At this point, cancer is in lymph nodes on both sides of the diaphragm.
• Stage 4. The cancer can be in an organ and spread beyond nearby lymph nodes. As NHL progresses, it may begin to spread. The most common sites for advanced NHL include the liver, bone marrow, and lungs. While stage 4 lymphoma is advanced, it’s still treatable
Lymphoma occurs when white blood cells called lymphocytes grow out of control. The average life span of a lymphocytes cell is brief, and then the cell dies. In people with lymphoma, however, DNA changes inside the lymphocytes cells cause them to thrive and spread instead of dying.
It’s unclear what exactly causes this DNA change, and even though there are some risk factors connected with lymphoma, people without the risk factors can still develop these cancers.
Risk Factors –
Factors that can increase the risk of lymphoma include –
• Your age. Some types are more common in young adults, while others are most often diagnosed in people over 55.
• Being male.Males are slightly more likely to develop lymphoma than are females.
• Having an impaired immune system. It is more common in people with immune system diseases or in people who take drugs that suppress their immune system.
• Developing certain infections. Some infections are associated with an increased risk of such problem, including the Epstein-Barr virus and Helicobacter pylori infection.
Typically, a doctor will do a biopsy if they suspect lymphoma. This involves removing cells from an enlarged lymph node.
If the hematopathologist detects lymphoma cells, further testing can identify how far the cancer has spread. These tests can include –
• a chest X-ray
• blood testing to check on white and red blood cell count
• testing nearby lymph nodes or tissues
• a bone marrow aspiration, where a small amount of liquid is taken from bone marrow and tested
• a lumbar puncture (spinal tap), where a small amount of fluid from the spine is removed and tested
• an abdominal ultrasound
Imaging scans, such as CT or MRI scans may also identify additional tumors or enlarged lymph nodes.
The treatment you get depends on what type of lymphoma you have and its stage.
The main treatments for non-Hodgkin lymphoma are –
• Chemotherapy, which uses drugs to kill cancer cells
• Radiation therapy, which uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells
• Immunotherapy, which uses your body’s immune system to attack cancer cells
• Targeted therapy that targets aspects of lymphoma cells to curb their growth
The main treatments for Hodgkin lymphoma are –
• Radiation therapy
If these treatments don’t work, you might have a stem cell transplant. First you’ll get very high doses of chemotherapy. This treatment kills cancer cells, but it also destroys stem cells in your bone marrow that make new blood cells. After chemotherapy, you will get a transplant of stem cells to replace the ones that were destroyed.
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