Lymphomas

Introduction

Cancer develops in the lymphatic system and various parts of the lymph glands are called Lymphoma. Lymphoma is the sixth most common cancer in all types of cancer. It damages the abdomen, throat, esophagus and causes chest pain. Thus, it can be dangerous and need immediate medical attention.

Cancer affecting the Lymphatic System/ lymph nodes of the body is known as Lymphoma. It is a type of blood cancer in which the cancer-causing abnormal cells target the bone marrow where they infect the lymphocytes. Lymphoma weakens the immune system of the human body because of the depleting number of white blood cells in the human body.

Types of lymphoma:

The two main types of lymphoma are:

  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL): Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is the more common form of lymphoma. There are two types of lymphocytes - B lymphocytes and T lymphocytes. NHL develops mostly from B lymphocytes. They also do not show the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells. NHL can happen at any age and shows a non-contiguous spreading pattern.
  • Hodgkin lymphoma: Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) is less common than Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) and is characterized by the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells seen under microscopy. HL essentially develops in a localized chain of lymph nodes. The cervical lymphatic chain is frequently involved (neck nodes), although it can also develop in the mesenteric and paraaortic chains. It spreads contiguously (from one node to another, or adjacent tissues) and rarely involves extra-nodal sites. HL also has a bimodal age distribution, generally differentiated into peak age groups of 15 to 34 years old, and those over 50 years.

Causes

Cancer is the result of uncontrolled cell growth. The average lifespan of a cell is brief, and then the cell dies. In people with lymphoma, however, the cell thrives and spreads instead of dying. It's unclear what causes lymphoma, but several risk factors are connected with these cancers.

Risk factor

Factors that can increase the risk of lymphoma include:

  • Age: Some types of lymphoma 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: Lymphoma 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 lymphoma, including the Epstein-Barr virus and Helicobacter pylori infection.

Signs & Symptoms

The symptoms of both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphomas are:

  • Painless swollen lymph nodes in the neck, under the arms, or in the groin
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Difficulty getting over a common cold or an infection
  • Anaemia
  • Itching with or without a rash

Diagnosis

In the initial stage, lymphoma cancer reveals symptoms of Leukemia. Thus, people tend to get confused. Hence, the doctor will ask to run a few tests which are helpful to diagnose the condition:

The diagnosis includes:

  • Blood tests: A complete blood count (CBC) can be used to determine the levels of the platelet count or white blood cell count. If the levels are low, it may indicate that lymphoma is present in the bone marrow or blood.
  • PET scan: A PET scan helps diagnose the lymph nodes. It produces 3D colored images which show the spread of lymphoma in the body. In addition, a PET scan highlights the affected areas in the body.
  • MRI scan: The doctor will suggest running an MRI, which helps check the brain or spinal cord. It happens that cancer starts affecting other organs in the body. Thus, an MRI scan helps in revealing affected areas.
  • Bone marrow biopsy: Bone marrow is more prone to be affected by the lymphocytes. Thus a biopsy is helpful for the same. In addition, the biopsy helps to check whether cancer has spread throughout the body.
  • Gland biopsy: The gland biopsy is the most critical test every cancer patient has to go through. In this biopsy, the lymph nodes are diagnosed to find the affected parts
  • CT scan: Apart from a PET scan and MRI, the doctor may ask to run a CT scan. It also helps in taking computed tomography photos of the internal organs.

Management

There are various management options available for Lymphoma, and it is treatable too. Doctors conclude about the treatment method according to the Detection test report.

  • Chemotherapy: This is an aggressive method in which drugs are given to kill the cancer cells, but they may also harm the healthy cells of the body.
  • Radioimmunotherapy: In Radioimmunotherapy, high-powered radioactive doses are given to the body to kill the cancerous B-cells and C-cells.
  • Steroids: Steroids are injected into the body to kill the cancer cells.
  • Radiation Therapy: In Radiation Therapy, small patches of cancer-infected areas are taken and treated.
  • Stem Cell Transplantation: Stem Cell Transplantation is used to restore the damaged/ infected bone marrow.
  • Antibody Therapy: Antibody Therapy is the kind of therapy in which synthetic antibodies are inserted into the bloodstream to fight cancer agents.
  • Biologic Therapy: It is one of the most suggested methods for Lymphoma treatment. In Biologic Therapy, living microorganisms are inserted into the body to stimulate the immune system to eliminate the cancer cells.
  • Surgery: Surgery is also a good option to treat Lymphoma. Through the operation, the doctors remove cancer affects organs from the body.

Follow-Up

Most hospitals have follow-up appointments for around 2 years after finishing treatment for lymphoma, though some offer it for longer.

You usually have check-ups every few months at first, then every 6 months. Having frequent appointments during this time means that your medical team can check for any signs of your lymphoma coming back- the risk of which is higher in the first 2 years after treatment.

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