A lymphoma cancer is a cancer that originates in the antibiotic cells of the immune system called as 'lymphocytes'. These cells are present in most parts of the body such as the lymph nodes, thymus, spleen, bone marrow, etc and a lymphoma cancer causes lymphocyte cells to grow uncontrollably in these parts.
Although there are dozens of subtypes of lymphoma cancer it is mainly divided into:
Hodgkin Lymphoma - This is a rare type of lymphoma cancer and is not seen affecting significant number of people. This type of lymphoma cancer affects a separate type of lymphocyte.
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma - This is the more commonly seen form of lymphoma cancer and affects a particular type of lymphocyte cell. The rate of development of this type of lymphoma cancer is different and the type of treatment required also varies accordingly.
Causes of Lymphoma Cancer
Although scientists do not yet know the exact cause of this cancer there are certain risk factors that have been identified which are suspected to increase the chances of development of lymphoma cancer in a person, such as If:
- You are over 60 years of age
- You are male
- You suffer from a weak immune system due to AIDS/HIV or a congenital (birth) immune disease
- You have had an organ transplant
- You suffer from immune system diseases such as lupus, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, etc
- You have previous cases of lymphoma in your close family
- You were exposed to harmful chemicals such as pesticides containing benzene
- You have had a previous treatment for Hodgkin/non-Hodgkin lymphoma
- You underwent radiation therapy for cancer treatment
- Are obese
These factors in general are known to raise the chances of development of the lymphoma cancer in a person.
Symptoms of Lymphoma Cancer
These are the commonly seen signs and symptoms of lymphoma cancer:
- Swollen glands (lymph nodes)
- Shortness of breath
- Night sweats
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
Although many of these signs could be symptoms for other diseases it is highly advisable to consult your physician/doctor to determine the presence of lymphoma cancer so it can be treated appropriately, if present.
Diagnosing Lymphoma Cancer
In case you are suffering from any of the common signs and symptoms of lymphoma cancer it is advisable to consult your physician/doctor. If they suspect lymphoma cancer there are several tests that might be performed to determine the presence of the cancer. The general tests include a complete physical examination and a check of your medical history.
The doctor/physician might also run some additional tests to confirm the diagnosis. These are the common diagnostic tests for checking lymphoma cancer:
- Blood test - This helps to check the cell-count of certain cells in your blood.
- Biopsy (bone marrow aspiration) - The doctor will use a large needle to remove tissue or fluid from your bone marrow (soft, spongy central part of bones) to check for presence of lymphoma cells.
- Thoracic (chest) x-ray - This allows the doctor to view the skeletal structure of the chest (ribs, sternum, etc) and check for abnormal growths (tumors).
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) - This test uses powerful magnets and radio waves to present detailed images of the organs and structure inside the body.
- PET scan - This is a radioactive substance test to check for carcinogenic cells in the body.
Treatments for Lymphoma Cancer
There are various types of treatments available for lymphoma cancer and the specific type of treatment suitable for your individual case depends on certain factors such as the type of lymphoma cancer, its extent of spread (metastasizing), your age, overall health status, other prevalent medical disorders or conditions (if any).
The main types of treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma are:
- Chemotherapy - This is a non-surgical treatment method used mainly to treat non-Hodgkin type of lymphoma cancer. This method uses specific medicinal drugs that are designed to attack to genes that help the cancerous lymphocytes to grow and spread. This helps control the abnormal growth of the affected lymphocytes, as well as gradually kill these lymphocytes completely. Chemotherapy drugs may be given orally or intravenously depending on the drug type and other similar factors.
- Radiation Therapy - This is also a non-invasive treatment method for non-Hodgkin type of lymphoma. This treatment method uses high-energy doses of radiation (x-ray or other particles), that are targeted towards the affected lymphocytes, to kill them.
- Immumotherapy - Also known as 'biologic therapy', this is a non-invasive type of treatment method used to treat non-Hodgkin type of lymphoma cancer. This treatment method aims to manipulate the body's natural immune system to fight against the lymphoma cancer. This is done by using either naturally produced substances, or artificially prepared materials, to improve, target and restore the function of the immune system. This helps to halt (or slow) the growth of cancer cells, stop the cancerous cells from metastasizing (spreading) to other parts of the body as well as help the immune system function better in defending the body against cancerous cells.
Hodgkin lymphoma cancer is treated using:
- Chemotherapy - This is a non-surgical treatment method which is also used to treat Hodgkin type of lymphoma cancer. This method uses specific medicinal drugs that are designed to attack to genes that help the cancerous lymphocytes to grow and spread. This helps control the abnormal growth of the affected lymphocytes, as well as gradually kill these lymphocytes completely. Chemotherapy drugs may be given orally or intravenously depending on the drug type and other similar factors.
- Radiation Therapy - This is also a non-invasive treatment method for treating Hodgkin type of lymphoma. This treatment method uses high-energy doses of radiation (x-ray or other particles), that are targeted towards the affected lymphocytes, to kill them.
In case these treatment methods are unsuccessful in treating your lymphoma cancer adequately the doctor might recommend a 'stem cell transplant' therapy. This involves giving large doses of chemotherapy to kill the cancer cells, as well as the blood-producing cells in the bone marrow. The stem cell transplant is then performed to replace the destroyed blood-producing cells.
There are basically two types of stem cell transplants:
- Autologous transplant - This type of stem cell transplant uses the person's own stem cells for transplant
- Allogeneic transplant - This stem cell transplant method uses stem cells sourced from a genetically-similar donor
The lymphoma cancer is one of the most commonly seen cancers that are often seen in men above the age of 60 years. The lymphoma cancer can be treated using any of the treatment methods effectively.
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