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Everything You Need to Know About Lymphoma

Gain a comprehensive understanding of lymphoma, from its types to treatment options.

  • 11 Sep 2023
  • 5 min read
  • 66 views

Lymphoma is the general term for a group of blood cancers that occurs in our lymphatic system. This vital system is made up of a network of tissues, vessels and organs that helps in fighting infections in our body. This cancer is also known as blood cancer, as it starts in the white blood cells (lymphocytes) in the lymphatic system. A specific reason for the occurrence of lymphoma and related cancer cannot be attributed to any specific cause and the research continues. In this article, we will explore what is lymphoma, its causes, treatment options and more.

What is lymphoma?

Lymphoma, a type of cancer, affects the lymphatic system that plays a vital role in defending the body against infection.  This type of cancer can quickly metastasize or spread to different tissues and organs like the liver, bone marrow, spleen, thymus and lungs. It can occur at any age, but the most commonly reported cases of lymphoma are of children and young adults aged 15-24 years. There are 2 main types of lymphoma: Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is the most common type that develops from B and T lymphocytes (cells) present in the lymph nodes or tissues throughout the body. Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer of the immune system that involves abnormal large B lymphocytes that usually moves from one lymph node to an adjacent one.

Symptoms of lymphoma

The most common lymphoma symptoms can include:

  • Swelling of one or more lymph nodes that does not cause pain
  • High fever persisting for a longer period without infection
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Persistent fatigue or tiredness
  • Sweaty nights
  • Unusual itching
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough and chest pain
  • Swelling in armpits, neck or abdomen
  • Bruising or Bleeding

Causes of Lymphoma

Doctors do not understand the real lymphoma causes. However, there are certain factors that can increase our risk of developing lymphoma. These include:

  • Genetics: Disease-fighting white blood cells go through genetic mutation and continue to multiply in the lymphatic fluid. As a result, cancer spreads to the patient's lymph nodes, liver and spleen.
  • Viral disease: There is an increased risk of acquiring lymphoma after exposure to certain viruses including HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and Epstein-Barr (causes mononucleosis) Virus.
  • Weak immune system: A person would be at higher risk of developing lymphoma if their immune system is weakened by other conditions or medical treatments. For example, people who undergo organ transplantation and have to take immunosuppressant medication to keep their bodies from rejecting the transplanted organ would have a weak immune system.
  • Autoimmune disease: Individuals with autoimmune diseases have an increased susceptibility to blood cancer, a condition in which the body mistakenly targets its own cells. Conditions like systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis, and celiac disease are associated with a heightened risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

How is Lymphoma diagnosed?

To diagnose lymphoma in a suspected patient, a doctor will perform a biopsy by removing cells from an enlarged lymph node which is then sent to a hematopathologist for examination. The other tests to diagnose lymphoma are:

  • Computed Tomography (CT) Scan: This technique involves the use of powerful X-rays that create detailed pictures inside the body
  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET): This scan is done to acquire a three-dimensional image, to look for lymphoma in the bone marrow.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging: It is a powerful technique that uses magnets and radio waves to acquire images of the lymph nodes.
  • Bone Marrow Biopsy: Bone marrow biopsy, in which a small amount of liquid is taken from the bone marrow, is done to identify if cells present in the bone marrow are cancerous or not.
  • Gland Biopsy: It involves the biopsy of lymph nodes or tissue of the nearby cells
  • Ultrasound: In this method, high-energy sound waves are used to create echoes that form a picture of the abdominal organs.
  • Lumbar puncture: This is performed where a small amount of fluid from the spine is removed and tested for cancer cell growth.

Also read:

How is lymphoma treated?

Lymphoma treatment can vary based on the type of lymphoma, its stage and symptoms, and the associated health risk to the patient. These include the following therapies:

  • Chemotherapy uses certain drugs to destroy cancer cells or stop them from multiplying further.
  • Radiation Therapy is the type of treatment that involves utilising high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. This type of therapy is done in patients that do not need to undergo surgery.
  • Targeted therapy utilizes drugs and other substances to target specific cancer cells.
  • Immunotherapy therapy drugs like nivolumab and pembrolizumab are also given to the lymphoma patient which uses the body’s T cells to attack the cancer cells.
  • Stem cell transplant: If the doctor doesn’t see any improvement with these treatments, the patient undergoes chemotherapy in an attempt to destroy as many cancer cells as possible, after which, a stem cell transplant is carried out, where stem cells from a donor are transplanted to the cancer patient to replace the damaged cells.

 

What to expect from the condition?

Being diagnosed with bone marrow cancer can be a life-altering experience that is both emotionally and physically challenging. Coping with the news and managing the range of physical changes can seem overwhelming, but it's important to remember that you're not alone. Establishing and fostering a support network is essential for navigating the challenges of treatment. The unwavering support of friends, family, and healthcare professionals offers encouragement, guidance, and a compassionate ear. Although the journey may present obstacles, rest assured that there are accessible resources to help you navigate the tough times with ease. Remember, it's okay to ask for support and to take things one day at a time.

How to take care of yourself?

Receiving a diagnosis of bone marrow cancer can be overwhelming for patients and their loved ones alike. Thus, involving yourself in activities like meditation, and breathing exercises can help to ease stress and can improve the quality of life. Cancer patients can enroll themselves in cancer wellbeing programs which can mentally help them to stay strong. Eating healthy and staying physically active can also help manage side effects of treatment. Managing stress and seeking emotional support can also improve your well-being. Remember to take things one step at a time and seek help when needed.

 

Conclusion 

The journey of being diagnosed with cancer and receiving treatment is a tremendous challenge. Timely diagnosis has a significant impact on the effectiveness of treatment. To provide appropriate care for cancer patients, a strong financial state is necessary to cover the expenses of treatment. Health insurance can be an instrumental tool for anyone facing a cancer diagnosis. This is because health insurance can provide invaluable financial support, ensuring that cancer patients receive the diagnosis and treatment they require without enduring the added stress of mounting medical bills. So, just remember, with prompt detection of lymphoma symptoms and appropriate care, one can effectively combat cancer treatment.

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