Lymphoma Cancer

Lymphatic system is a part of the vascular system and an integral part of the immune system. It consists of a network of lymphatic vessels that carry a clear fluid to the heart. This fluid is known as lymph. As the name signifies, Lymphoma is the cancer of the lymphatic system and lymph nodes and affects white blood cells which are also known as lymphocytes. The cancer cells can metastasize and spread to other parts of the body as well.

Lymphoma Meaning

Lymphomas are neoplasms of the lymphatic tissues. They are the tumors of the lymphoid tissues. The malignant neoplasms (cancer of the lymphocyte) develop in white blood cells that belong to the lymph as well as blood. Lymphomas and another disease lymphoid leukemia are very closely related and sometimes they are a unitary disease in a human body and get called interchangeably.

Lymphoma Cancer Types

There are two broad types of Lymphoma cancer – Hodgkin and Non Hodgkin. When an individual is suffering from Hodgkin lymphoma, a specific cell known as Reed-Sternberg cell is present. Non Hodgkin is more common out of the two and affects the B and T cells. It accounts for about ninety percent of the whole of the Lymphoma cancer cases. Both these broad have different subtypes as well.

Lymphoma Cancer Symptoms

The symptoms are similar to common viral fever but the difference is in the duration of these symptoms. When the symptoms are persistent, then doctors advise screening for cancer. Some of the common symptoms are:

  •  Swollen glands with no sign of subsiding
  •  Pain along with the swollen glands
  •  Enlarged lymph nodes with no sign of reduction
  •  Fever
  •  Night Sweats
  •  Chills
  •  Loss of Appetite
  •  Weight Loss
  •  Constant fatigue
  •  Constant itching
  •  Lack of energy
  •  Tiredness
  •  Shortness of breath
  •  Persistent cough
  •  Swelling or pain in abdomen

In some cases there are none of the above symptoms at all, rather just swelling of lymph nodes that are spread in the entire body like in the neck, armpits, abdomen and groin. These enlarged lymph nodes might not be painful on their own but might cause pain if they get pressed against bones or any organ of the body.

Lymphoma Cancer Causes

Lymphoma can rapidly spread to other parts of the body from lymph nodes through the lymphatic system thus weakening body’s infection-fighting ability. The lymphatic tissues are spread across the body and cancer cells spread easily through these tissues to other organs of the body. Lungs, bone marrow and liver are the most commonly affected organs.

Cancer can develop if there is uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells that thrive instead of dying as per their cycle. If a person is suffering from Hodgkin lymphoma, the spread of cancer is from one lymph node to another. In non Hodgkin lymphoma, tumors get formed disparately across the lymph nodes, skipping several lymph nodes in between.

Risks of Hodgkin Lymphoma

  •  People who are 55 and above or those who are between 20-30 age group are in risk.
  •  It is more common in males
  •  It is more common in western countries
  •  If an identical twin is suffering from the disease, then there is chance of the other getting affected
  •  People of higher socioeconomic status get more affected
  •  HIV Infection
  •  Epstein-Barr Virus

Risks of Non Hodgkin Lymphoma

  • Mostly sufferers are sixty years and above. However, there are cases when even the children, adolescents and young adults get affected
  • This type of cancer is more evident in developed nations
  • Some of the chemicals that are used in agriculture pose a risk to Non Hodgkin Lymphoma
  • Nuclear Radiation can also pose a risk
  • Some medications after organ transplant can be risky
  • Autoimmune diseases like celiac disease, rheumatoid disease etc.
  • Certain bacterial infections like Epstein-Barr Virus cause glandular fever and might get cancerous
  • Breast implant can cause large cell lymphoma in the breast tissue
  • People with weakened immune system like HIV infection are also at risk

Lymphoma Cancer Diagnosis

If there is persistent flu and viral fever, then doctor does screening for lymphoma. They take account of family medical history and carry out physical examination of chin, neck, armpits, abdomen, and groin to see whether there is suspicious swelling. Signs of infection and swelling are particularly watched near the lymph nodes.

Lymphoma Diagnosis Tests

  •  Blood Tests
  •  Lymph Biopsy - Taking sample of lymph tissue for laboratory examination
  •  Bone Marrow Biopsy – In some cases
  •  Imaging tests – x ray, CT or MRI scan, PET scan, ultrasound of pelvis or abdomen
  •  Spinal Tap – Use of thin needle under local anesthesia to test spinal fluid

Lymphoma Cancer Staging

Staging is done on scales of 0-IV depending upon cellular characteristics, growth rate and type of cancer. Stage IV is the most advanced stage and signifies spreading of lymphoma cancer to distant organs.

Lymphoma Cancer Treatment

When one is suffering from low grade lymphomas, the disease remains indolent for many years. Watchful waiting is the initial course of action. People of low grade lymphomas have a nearly normal lifespan. High grade lymphomas are more aggressive in nature and hence require aggressive treatment. Even after treatment, there can be relapse which should be treated with even more aggressiveness.

 

The type and stage of cancer determines the treatment option. Either one or a combination of following treatments is advised to patients depending upon their individual conditions:

 

  •  Antibody Therapy – To combat cancer’s antigens, synthetic antibodies are inserted into the blood stream.
  •  Biologic Therapy – Living microorganisms are inserted into the body to attack cancer cells.
  •  Chemotherapy – Cancer cells are killed through aggressive drug treatment
  •  Radiation therapy – Electromagnetic rays are used to kill the cancer cells
  •  Radioimmunotherapy – High powered radioactive doses are delivered directly into the cancer cells to kill them
  •  Steroids – These are injected to the individuals’ body to treat lymphoma
  •  Surgery – It is done to remove organs or spleen incase the cancer has spread drastically.
  •  Palliative Care – It is a multidisciplinary approach that encompasses specialized medical and nursing care and relief from pain, symptoms as well as mental and  physical stress. It also encompasses treatment of mental stress of the family members of the patients as they suffer too due to the illness of a loved one. 

Lymphoma Cancer Survival Rate

Though Lymphoma cancer can develop across all age groups, it is most commonly found in children and individuals up to twenty- four years of age and is a treatable disease. 2 in 3 people suffering from stage I Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma cancer survive for at least five years after diagnosis. The earlier medical care is provided, the more are chances of success in treatment. Hence unusual signs should be taken seriously instead of ignoring.

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