There are different types of blood cancers. One of these types includes lymphoma. This type of cancer affects the lymphatic system. Some of the white blood cells begin to grow out of control and get collected in the lymphatic system. Thus, leading to lymphoma, the cancer of the lymphatic system.
What is the Lymph System?
The lymph system runs all over the body. It is one of the most important systems of the body that consists of the lymphoid tissues, fluids and other vessels. The lymphoid tissue is home to the lymph nodes that form an important part of the body’s defense system, that is, the immune system. These lymph nodes are present in the neck, armpits, chest, abdomen, groin, etc. The body remains protected from various infections due to the ever fighting and defensive immune system. When this system is affected, it leads to recurrent infections and a weak body.
What is Lymphoma?
Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer of the lymphatic system. About half of the blood cancers affecting people worldwide, consist of lymphoma. The lymphocytes, the type of white blood cell that fights infections, begin to grow abnormally. These cells get collected in the lymph nodes and gradually affect the working of the immune system.
Which Part of the Body Does Lymphoma Affect?
Lymphoma can strike any part of the lymph system.Most people notice swelling or enlargement of the lymph nodes in the neck, armpits or groin. As lymph nodes are present in each and every part of the body, the white blood cells can reach them, cancer can occur anywhere in the body.
How is Lymphoma Categorized?
Lymphoma is a broad group of related cancers. There are about 30 different types of lymphomas, broadly categorized into two categories. These include:
- Hodgkin Disease – When the abnormal cell called Reed-Sternberg is present, it is classified as Hodgkin disease.
- Non-Hodgkin Disease –All other types of lymphomas are classified as NHD. This happens due to injury to the DNA of a lymphocyte progenitor.This type of cancer cannot be inherited.
To understand which type of lymphoma one is suffering from, the doctor will advice blood tests. The blood will be observed under the microscope. Their appearance and behavior after certain test will help understand the type that’s developing in one’s body. This is very important as the treatment plan will be determined based on the type.
Causes of Lymphoma
Cancer is caused due to uncontrolled growth of cells that do not die early. The exact cause of lymphoma is still unkown. However, there are certain risk factors underlined that can lead to lymphoma.
Genes are said to be a major precursor for the development of cancer. They are inherited from parents and any fault or mutation in the gene can make it more likely to develop cancer in later life.
Carcinogens are substances that damage the DNA. These carcinogens include herbicides, pesticides, black hair dye, benzene, etc. When the body is exposed to these carcinogens, they can damage the cells and cause them to act abnormally. Thus, leading to cancer or lymphoma.
There are other factors that increase the risk of lymphoma. These include older age or have poor immunity levels. This includes people infected with:
- Human T-lymphocytic virus type 1
- Epstein-Barr virus
- Hepatitis B or C
- Helicobacter pylori
- Autoimmune diseases such as lupus
Symptoms of Lymphoma
The symptoms of lymphoma are non-specific in nature. Thus, often overlooked. Persistent symptoms need to be examined and tested. Most common symptom includes swollen lymph nodes in either neck,chest, armpits, abdomen or groin region. Other symptoms include:
- Night sweats
- Weight loss
- Shortness of breath
Diagnosis of Lymphoma
Diagnosis of lymphoma is done by carrying out lymph node biopsy. The histological features of the lymph node indicate lymphoma. If lymphoma is diagnosed other tests will be carried out like:
- CT Scan
- Gallium scan
- FSH testing
- Flow cytometry
Treatment of Lymphoma
Treatment depends on the type and aggressiveness of the lymphoma. These include:
- Radiation therapy
- Stem cell transplantation
The sooner lymphoma is diagnosed, the better the prognosis. As the cancer enters advance stages, it becomes difficult to control the spread and get rid of cancerous cells. There is about 80% chances of survival in cases where the cancer was diagnosed and treated in the localized stage.
Lymphoma is one of the fifth most common cancer diagnosed and is one of the most common type of blood cancers. It can affect any person or any age. Thus, if one notices enlargement of the lymph nodes or other persistent symptoms they should bring it to the notice of their doctors. The sooner the cancer is caught, the better chances of surviving this dangerous disease.
Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: March 15, 2015