What is Lymphoma?
Lymphoma is simply defined as a type of cancer in the lymph system. British physician Thomas Hodgkin was the first to publish initial descriptions of the condition in 1832. Thus, the specific type of lymphoma he described (Hodgkin’s lymphoma) was appropriately named after him. After his initial description, many other studies looked at several other forms or types of the cancerous disease.
A cancer appears when several of our bodies’ cells begin behaving abnormally. The body is comprised of various kinds of cells found in different organs like the nerves of blood. At times, normal cells cease getting usual biological signals that make them stop growing. When that happens, the cells abnormally continue to multiply and grow. This is the formation of cancer cells. When the cancer cells grow, the affected organ stops working normally. Several of the cancer cells also start to break off from the original site, spreading into many other body parts and affecting many other organs.
The lymph system comprises an interconnected network with thin nodes and tubes carrying white blood cells. Such cells are responsible for fighting off infections. This way, they are vitally significant to the body’s overall well-being. When a lymphocyte (a specific kind of white blood cell) in the lymph system starts to become cancerous, it would tend to multiply and grow leading to formation of lymphoma.
Which part of the body is usually affected by lymphoma? The cancer could affect any part of the lymph system. Usually, patients initially notice abnormal enlargement of the lymph nodes, specifically in the areas of the groin, the neck, and the armpits. However, lymphoma could also manifest in several other organs of the body. This is because minimal amounts of lymph tissue pass into practically every organ in the body as white blood cells reach out to different areas to perform control of infections.
This type of cancer is currently the most usual form of blood cancer or hematological malignancy especially in the developed countries. Lymphoma comprises about 5.3% of overall forms of cancers in the United States alone. It comprises of up to 55.6% of blood cancers diagnosed. According to data released by the US National Institute of Health, Hodgkin’s lymphomas is accounting for about 1% of total cases of cancer across the country. Patients with HIV infection and exposure to certain medications and drugs have higher incidences of lymphoma for obvious reasons.
Many forms of lymphoma are indolent (occurring lifelong even without medication or treatment) or aggressive (causing fast deterioration of health and eventually death). However, most incidences of aggressive lymphomas are responding ideally to treatment. In other words, they are curable. This condition is not a single type of cancer because it comprises of a group of several related forms of cancers. There are about 30 various types of identified lymphoma. In a broad sense, lymphomas could be categorized as either Hodgkin or Non-Hodgkin lymphomas. Of course, each type has its own features and manifestations and results to different outcomes in the long term.
Whenever you get sick, what’s the first thing that you do? Know what you have. Either it’s a simple fever or a complicated illness, the very first thing that you do is to gather information to find out your current condition. The same thing with lymphoma, whether you research things on your own or go to a doctor (although this should always be the case since self diagnosis can bring you only so far) for advice, your target is to get all you need know about the disease.
Lymphoma is basically a cancer of the lymphatic system. The system is composed of various nodes or glands situated in different places of our body. These glands are connected by vessels that carry the lymph fluid or the white blood cells which help fight diseases. As you might have remembered in your high school biology class, the white blood cells help fight the bacteria and diseases that enter our body. And because these glands are connected to each other, once lymphoma hits a gland, there’s a good chance that the cancer cells spread throughout the body via the lymph vessels. You should know this fact out front: no cure has been discovered yet that would eliminate the disease. Nonetheless, there are new techniques, medicines and medical procedures that have brought more positive treatments for people with lymphoma.
There are two kinds of lymphoma, namely Hodgkin’s lymphomas and Non Hodgkin’s lymphomas (NHL). The first one, the Hodgkin’s disease owes its name to Thomas Hodgkin (1798-1866). He was the first one who published a paper about the disease. This kind of lymphoma is capable of spreading from one lymph node to another. It is also observed that people diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma has the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells which can only be detected by the aid of a microscope.
The other kind of lymphoma is the non-Hodgkin kind. This kind is described as having larger than normal lymph nodes and is accompanied by fever and weight loss. There are about 16 sub-types which do not fall under the conditions described by Hodgkin’s lymphoma. These sub-types are grouped according to aggressiveness which basically means the cancer cells are fast-growing. NHL lymphomas include chronic lymphocytic leukemia/small lymphocytic lymphoma (CLL/SLL), Burkitt lym-phoma, mantle cell lymphomas, follicular lymphoma, diffuse large B-cell lymphomas and immunoblastic large cell lymphoma.
Treatment is either radiation therapy or chemotherapy. The age, sex and stage of the cancer’s development plays a role in determining the kind of treatment patients will undergo. Early detection is crucial. Most of the patients do survive the treatment especially if they have been diagnosed during the early stages of the lymphoma.
Some of the more common symptoms of lymphomas include painless swelling in the lymph nodes of the neck, underarm, or groin. People with lymphomas also might experience fever, tiredness, weight loss, itchiness, red patches on the skin, nausea, vomiting and sometimes abdominal pain.
Those with low-grade lymphomas will encounter a very slow growth of the cancer cells and will experience very few of the symptoms. The problem with low-grade lymphomas is that even though they respond well to chemotherapy, they oftentimes return and is considered incurable unlike high-grade lymphomas. With the latter, treatment involves chemotherapy, with or without radiation therapy.
Admittedly, the information above is not all that you need to know about lymphoma. There are more facts that you need to find out for yourself especially if you have been diagnosed with having lymphoma.