What you need to know about Lymphoma

Facts & Stats

Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system. This lymphatic system protects the body from all external germs. The lymphatic system comprises of the lymph nodes or lymph glands, thymus gland, spleen and the bone marrow. The cancerous condition of Lymphoma can not only affect all of these areas but also other organs of the body. Hodgkin's lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are some of the common variants of Lymphoma. Lymphoma affects both children and adults of both sexes. It is a very common form of cancer affecting thousands of people all over the world on a yearly basis.

Symptoms

Hodgkin's LymphomaHere are the main symptoms of Lymphoma.

  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Severe itching
  • Persistent weariness
  • Mysterious weight loss
  • Painless swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, groin or armpits
  • Enhanced sensitivity to alcohol and/or pain in the lymph nodes after consuming alcohol

Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Shortness of breath
  • Inflamed lymph nodes
  • Drenching night sweats
  • Easy bleeding or bruising
  • Pain or pressure felt in the chest
  • Frequent and/or severe infections
  • Feeling full only after eating a small portion

Stages

Lymphoma staging is carried out after the diagnosis with an aim to correctly understand the stage or condition a patient is currently in. It also helps to decide on the mode of treatment. Lymphoma staging ranges between Stage I and Stage IV. During the Stage I, the cancer is limited within its point of origin. In Stage II, the cancer affects two or more lymphatic regions. As the cancerous condition starts to progress towards Stage III and Stage IV, the cancer starts to spread more and more from its original location. This also makes treatment rather difficult and arduous task.

Causes

The medical community is not sure as to what factors give rise to lymphoma. However, one thing is clear and that it starts to develop when some white blood cell or lymphocyte goes through a genetic mutation. Such a genetic mutation leads to rapid multiplication of the cells which causes numerous diseased lymphocytes to multiply in an uncontrollable manner. This mutation also allows these cells to live and multiply which leads to the death of the other healthy cells. It leads to the accumulation of a large number of ineffective lymphocytes in due course of time which leads to swelling of the lymph nodes. Presence of Helicobacter pylori infection, Epstein-Barr virus or a compromised immune system may aggravate the chances of lymphoma.

Diagnosis

The doctor is going to carry out a physical exam to check for the presence of swollen lymph nodes, in your underarm, neck and groin area, as well as look for swollen liver or spleen. Lymph node biopsy can be carried out to see if there are any lymphoma cells. Blood tests can be performed to see if there are any chemical changes. The doctor will also obtain bone marrow samples to see how they have been affected by lymphoma. Additional imaging tests such as MRI scans, CT scans and PET or positron emission tomography scans can be performed to conclusively prove the presence of lymphoma.

Treatment

In some cases, the doctor is going to closely observe the progression of your disease for some time before deciding on any treatment method. The most common methods of treating lymphoma include chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted drugs, radiation therapy and bone marrow transplant or stem cell transplant procedure. In most cases, chemotherapy is able to destroy all the fast multiplying cells and bring the condition to a halt. Radiation therapy makes use of high power beams like protons and X-rays to control lymphoma. The type of treatment method is also going to depend on the general health conditions and the extent of lymphoma in every case.

Prevention

Since the exact factors that lead to Lymphoma are not known, it is not possible for a person to take precautions against this condition. One may try to improve the immunity strength to enhance the body’s resistance to lymphoma. Treatment should be availed for Helicobacter pylori infection and Epstein-Barr virus if either or both exists.