Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic tissues. This condition occurs when blood cell tumors start developing on the lymphatic system. Lymphoma represents about 35 different subtypes of lymphocytes cancers.
Lymphoma is divided into two categories: Hodgkin lymphomas or HL and the Non-Hodgkin lymphomas or NHL. 90% of lymphoma cases are comprised of Non-Hodgkin lymphomas.
Usually, the body’s lymphocytes are able to recognize the malignant cells and try to destroy them. There are two types of lymphocytes: B and T lymphocytes. Medically, they are referred to as B and T cells.
B cells produce antibodies. These cells alert other cells to destroy foreign microbes in the body. On the other hand, T cells destroy the foreign body directly. Both B and T cells “remember” the invaders to prevent re-infection.
But when malignant cells start invading the body, either the B or T cells mutate to cancer cells too. And the abnormal cells will start accumulating in the lymph tissues. As the malignant cells grow rapidly, it causes a malignant tumor. The growth will deprive the system of oxygen and nourishment.
Signs and Symptoms of Lymphoma
The most common sign of lymphoma is an abnormal growth or swelling in the neck, under the arms or in the groin area. Lymphoma will trigger the swelling of lymph nodes. This is caused by nerves being pinched by the growth, leading to sharp pain, numbness, tingling and other discomforts.
Other symptoms include chills and fever, rapid weight loss, lack of energy and night sweats. 25% of patients with lymphoma experience inexplicable itching that starts at the lower extremity then spreads to the rest of the body.
Causes of Lymphoma
The risk of Non-Hodgkin lymphomas and Hodgkin lymphomas increases when the patient is afflicted with HIV virus or Epstein-Barr virus. Infection with Helicobacter pylori and hepatitis B or hepatitis C virus could also lead to this condition. Any infections that compromise the immune system could cause Non-Hodgkin lymphomas and Hodgkin lymphomas.
Exposure to chemicals – such as pesticides, herbicides, or benzene and/or other solvents – could also increase the risk of developing lymphoma. The same thing goes if you are a long-time user of hair dyes. Finally, your genetic makeup could also make you vulnerable to having lymphoma.
Once you are diagnosed with this condition, your oncologist will present various treatments – each one has their own pros and cons. The treatment for lymphoma will depend on the type and the progression of the disease.
The most common treatments for this condition is chemotherapy and radiation therapy. After treatment, the disease will go into remission. This doesn’t mean you’re cured. It means the cancer is undetectable and it causes no symptoms. The length of time, it takes for the disease to go into remission will vary. Some last a few months, others for several years. There are cases wherein remission lasted throughout the patient’s life.
Usually, the length of time the cancer is in remission is taken as an indication of the disease’s aggressiveness. If it took a while for the cancer to come back, it means better prognosis.
If the cancer comes back, this is called a recurrence. Other treatments that will lengthen remission include induction therapy, salvage therapy, and maintenance therapy.