Lymphoma

Lymphoma Is Cancer Of The Lymphatic System

Lymphoma cancer cell, SEM
Lymphoma cancer cell, SEM. Getty Images/STEVE GSCHMEISSNER/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Lymphoma is cancer of the lymphatic system, part of the body’s immune system. The lymphatic system is a network of nodes, or lymph glands, connected by vessels that drain fluid and waste from all organs and structures in the body. The lymphatic system produces lymphocytes which are white blood cells that protect your body against infection and disease. If lymphocytes become malignant and begin to multiply, the result is lymphoma.

Types of Lymphoma

There are many types of lymphoma. One type of lymphoma is Hodgkin lymphoma, once referred to as Hodgkin’s disease; the other types of lymphomas are called non-Hodgkin lymphoma.  Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, also known as NHL, is more common than Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  The main difference between the two is the lymphocytes involved. If “Reed-Sternberg” cells are present, Hodgkin’s disease is diagnosed; non-Hodgkin’s if they are not. Non-Hodgkin’s is classified according to the type of cell in which it is found. Most cases of NHL begin with either a T-cell or B-cell, types of lymphocytes. Different types of NHL require different treatments making the classification process essential.

Symptoms of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is difficult to diagnose. Many of the symptoms you may experience mimic other diseases. Depending on where the cancer originates and how fast it grows and what part of the body it affects will determine the symptoms you experience.

Some of the symptoms of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma include the following:

  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, abdomen, groin, or underarms
  • Enlarged liver or spleen
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Night sweats
  • Coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness

Abdominal pain, swelling, or a feeling of fullness is also a symptom of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Risk Factors for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

There are general risk factors for developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Some of the risk factors for NHL include:

  • If you are between the ages of 15 and 40
  • If you are older than 55
  • If you are a male
  • If you are Caucasian
  • If you have a family history of NHL
  • If you have been exposed to radiation
  • If you have an autoimmune disease
  • If you have a diet that is high in fats and meat
  • If you have been exposed to certain chemicals
  • If you have had breast implants
  • If you have a weakened immune system

Some types of NHL have different risk factors.

Diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

In addition to a complete medical history, your doctor will carefully check your lymph nodes for swelling. In addition, blood tests, and a chest X-ray may be performed. If NHL is suspected, further testing may include:

  • Lymph-node biopsy
  • Bone-marrow biopsy
  • Ultrasound
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan
  • PET scan
  • Bone scan

Swollen lymph nodes may also be caused by an infection.

Treatment of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma will depend on the classification and progression of the disease. It will also depend on your overall health. Treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can include:

If you don’t have symptoms of NHL, you may not need immediate treatment. Instead, you and your doctor will maintain a protocol of observation with regularly scheduled appointments.

Continue Reading