Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer that develops in the lymphocytes present in the lymphatic system. Lymphocytes in the body are responsible for fighting infections and strengthening immunity. A cancerous development in these cells compromises the body’s ability to ward off infections.
Lymphomas are commonly found in lymph nodes, spleen, thymus, bone marrow, or other organs which gradually turn into a tumour. Owing to the attack on the lymphatic system, some lymphomas grow rapidly, while others may take years to develop into cancer. It can occur at any age; however, it is more observed in young adults and adults above the age of 60.
Types of Lymphomas
Lymphomas are of the following types:
- Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: This is a rare type of lymphoma that occurs in the B-lymphocytes of bone marrow. It is characterized by the presence of Reed-Stenberg cells or RS cells.
- Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma: This is a common type of lymphoma and is characterized by the absence of RS cells.
In the early stages, lymphomas may not show any symptoms. It may show the following symptoms as the cells begin to grow:
- Swollen lymph nodes.
- Abrupt weight loss.
- Shortness of breath.
- Skin irritation.
- Pain in bones and joints.
- Abdominal pain.
- Night sweats
Lymphomas are caused by:
- Gender: These are more common in men than in women.
- Poor immunity.
- Certain viral infections.
- Autoimmune disorders.
- Radiation exposure.
- Exposure to harmful chemicals
- Personal history of lymphoma.
Lymphomas are diagnosed by the following tests:
- Physical examination: The first test to diagnose lymphoma is physical examination and study of medical history. The doctor will ask you about your previous medical conditions and surgical history. Furthermore, he will physically examine for swollen nodes, anaemia, or rashes.
- Blood test: A blood test evaluates the number of blood cells in the body. A decline in red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets indicate a lymphoma.
- Lymph node biopsy: The doctor will remove a smart part of the lymph node and examine it for the presence of cancer.
- Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy: During this procedure, the doctor will remove a liquid portion of the bone marrow (aspiration) or the solid portion (biopsy) from the hip bone. These samples will be examined for cancer cells.
- Imaging tests: Various imaging tests such as X-ray, MRI, and CT scans will be conducted to get additional information about the condition.
The treatment for lymphoma will depend on the patient’s age, stage of cancer, and underlying medical condition. The treatment will be a combination of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, targeted therapy and immunotherapy.
- Active surveillance: The doctor will recommend active surveillance for slow-growing cancers. In this, the doctor will monitor the patient for signs of cancer progression. The treatment will begin once the cells start showing symptoms.
- Chemotherapy: This is the mainstay of lymphoma treatment. High doses of anti-cancer drugs will be administered to destroy lymphoma cells. In some cases, chemotherapy is combined with radiation therapy to remove cells from the body.
- Radiation therapy: High energy X-rays will be used to destroy cancer cells.
- Stem cell transplantation: This treatment is restricted in cases of relapse. In this procedure, healthy bone marrow cells from donors are transfused into the patient’s body.
- Immunotherapy: Specific biomolecules such as cytokines are injected into the body to fight against the cancer cells.