Expert Explains The Types And Diagnosis Of Lymphoma

Lymphoma is a type of  blood cancer that originates in the lymphatic system. Read ahead to know more.

Tanya Srivastava
Written by: Tanya SrivastavaPublished at: Sep 15, 2022Updated at: Sep 19, 2022
Expert Explains The Types And Diagnosis Of Lymphoma

Lymphoma is a type of  blood cancer that originates in the lymphatic system, which is part of our immune system that helps in fighting both disease and infection. It includes lymph nodes, lymphatic vessels, the spleen, and the thymus gland. There are two types of lymphoma  – Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

1. Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

In an exclusive interaction with OnlyMyHealth, Dr Mitu Shrikhande, Senior Consultant- Haematology, Fortis Hospital Vasant Kunj explains that this group comprises several subtypes. Broadly, these can be either indolent (slow growing) or aggressive (fast-growing). More than 80% are a B-cell subtype and the rest are T-cell or NK cell types. A few common subtypes include diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, follicular lymphoma, mantle cell lymphoma, anaplastic large cell lymphoma, primary cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, and Burkitt Lymphoma.

2. Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

It’s a potentially curable lymphoma with distinct histology and is seen in both young adults and the elderly. The prognosis is extremely good if diagnosed and treated early. Warning signs of lymphoma usually include the following:

  • Lumps in the neck, armpit, or groin
  • Persistent unexplained fever with unexplained weight loss
  • Night sweats
  • Swelling of face and neck
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Breathlessness 
  • Liver and spleen enlargement

The main treatments for Hodgkin’s lymphoma are:

  1. Chemotherapy
  2. Radiation therapy
  3. Immunotherapy

Diagnosis of Lymphoma 

A doctor will perform a physical exam, which will include a check for swollen lymph nodes. This symptom doesn't necessarily mean that a person has cancer. However, most of the time, an infection, unrelated to cancer, causes swollen lymph nodes.

A lymph node biopsy will help to check for cancer cells. For this test, the doctor will remove all or part of a lymph node, or use a needle to take a small amount of tissue from the affected node. Further diagnosis can be done through:

  1. Biopsy
  2. Chest X-ray
  3. Molecular test
  4. PET scan
  5. Blood tests

Treatment of Lymphomas 

Lymphomas are potentially curable, and the treatment may vary with diagnosis and may include certain modalities alone, sequentially, or in combination. These are active surveillance, best supportive care, chemotherapy, chemo-immunotherapy, targeted therapy, radiation therapy, stem cell transplant, and cellular therapies.

Excisional Lymph node biopsy is essential for precise diagnosis in the treatment of lymphoma. Special tests and stains called IHC (Immunohistochemistry) are performed on the biopsy tissue to reach a precise diagnosis. Lymphoma is staged based on PET CT and bone marrow studies.

In most cases, lymphoma is considered to be very treatable. However, each patient's outlook can vary based on several factors, most notably the type and severity of the diagnosis and how early the cancer was detected.

Treatments and medical assistance have improved a lot, and many people do very well after treatment. However, it is suggested that the doctor talks to you about a survivorship care plan.