There are more than 100 types of cancers affecting different areas of the body. While some of the cancers(eg- lung cancer, blood cancer, breast cancer, etc.) are known to one and all, many cancers are still lesser-known. Lymphoma cancer is one of them. This is cancer of the lymphatic system and it grows in lymphocytes that are a part of white blood cells. This can also be counted under the blood cancer category. To know more about lymphoma, its symptoms, causes and treatment, read this article.
Lymphocytes are essential for health as these secure the immune system of the body to protect against damaging bodies. Lymphocytes fight diseases and when cancer develops in these cells, it is highly concerning. The tumour develops in the lymphatic system and often metastasizes, meaning that this can develop or spread to other tissues and organs including bone marrow, lungs or liver. Lymphoma cancer is highly common in children and younger adults.
Types of Lymphoma
According to Dr Anil Thakwani, Director and Senior Consultant, Cancer department, Sharda Hospital, Lymphoma itself is a type of blood cancer but there are different types of lymphoma cancer. These are:
- Hodgkin Lymphoma
- Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
Let us talk about them in detail.
This is cancer that spreads from one lymph node to the other. This cancer affects the immune system and it is diagnosed by the presence of abnormally large B lymphocytes, also known as Reed-Sternberg cells.
Non-Hodgkin is the most common type of lymphoma cancer that develops from B lymphocytes and T lymphocytes cells. These spread from tissues and one to another lymph nodes. This cancer doesn’t affect all the lymph nodes, unlike Hodgkin lymphoma.
Symptoms of Lymphoma Cancer
You would be surprised to know but symptoms of lymphoma cancer are very similar to the common cold. However, these symptoms persist for a longer time period. Here is the list of symptoms of lymphoma that most people experience:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Swelling in the neck, armpits, abdomen, groin, etc.
- Lymphoma causes back pain
- Fever, chills and night sweats
- Fever without a viral infection
- Itching around lymph nodes
- Lack of energy or persistent fatigue
- Reduced appetite
- Sudden unexplained weight loss
The prominent symptoms of lymphoma are swelling and pain in lymph nodes. However, these are also experienced during cold and viral infections. If these issues persist for longer time and swelling increases, you must see a doctor. In most cases, people ignore these symptoms and this causes misdiagnosis. Therefore, consulting a doctor is very important if your lymph nodes swell and pain for more than 2-3 weeks.
These were common symptoms of all types of lymphoma cancer. Here are some symptoms that are additionally experienced in non-Hodgkin lymphoma:
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling and pain in the abdomen
- Persistent coughing
What Are The Risk Factors for Lymphoma?
Since there are two types of lymphoma, risk factors for both types are different.
Risk Factors for Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
- Age- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is more common in elders aged above 60 years.
- Gender- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer is more prevalent in men.
- Infection- Certain infections such as Epstein-Barr virus infection that cause transformation of lymphocytes to increase the risk of lymphoma cancer
- Exposure to certain chemicals and radiation increases the chances of getting lymphoma cancer.
- People with weaker immunity or immunocompromised people are highly likely to get this cancer
- People with autoimmune diseases can get lymphoma which is because the immune system attacks healthy cells of the body
Risk factors for Hodgkin lymphoma
- Age- Adults aged between 20-30 years and elders aged 55 years and above are at risk
- Family history- If someone in your family has had lymphoma or your twin sibling is diagnosed with this cancer of the lymphatic system, you are at greater risk of developing it.
- Hodgkin Lymphoma is more common in men than women
- The Epstein-Barr virus causes infectious mononucleosis which increases the risk of lymphoma
- People with HIV infection have a weaker immune system and so, at risk of lymphoma cancer
How Is Lymphoma Cancer Treated?
There are various treatment options available for both types of lymphomas. The treatment and its course depend on the stage of cancer. Lymphomas that are slow-growing do not need treatment unless they become severe. Here are all the possible treatment options for lymphoma:
- Biological therapy- This is a drug therapy where drugs are given to activate the immune system to fight cancer.
- Antibody therapy- The doctor injects antibodies to the body to target cancer toxins.
- Radioimmunotherapy- In this therapy, radioactive doses of drugs are injected directly into the cancerous cells to kill them.
- Chemotherapy- This is a popular cancer treatment that targets and destroys the cancer cells over time.
- Radiation therapy- In this treatment, concentrated doses of radiation are used to target and destroy cancer cells.
- Steroids- Initial stage Lymphoma can be treated with steroids
There are many ways to treat lymphoma cancer depending upon the stage of cancer. In some cases, surgeries can also be performed to remove the tissue or organ where lymphoma has spread. Just be watchful towards the symptoms and seek medical help as early as possible.
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