Is Hairy Cell Leukemia a Lymphoma?
Hairy cell leukemia is not a Lymphoma. Hairy cell leukemia and lymphoma are two very different entities. Diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up are only possible in expert hands; each disease requires its own treatment, with clear possibilities of cure or ample survival, but it is essential that it is carried out under the control of well-trained teams with extensive experience.
Hairy cell leukemia and lymphomas are malignant processes that encompass a wide variety of types, whose diagnosis is made only by studying malignant cells in blood, bone marrow, and biopsies of lymph nodes or other affected organs. The symptoms vary a lot: fever, weight loss, hemorrhage, palpable lymph nodes, etc., or patients may be asymptomatic, so the diagnosis can only be made by studying the cells.
Sometimes bone marrow transplant may be necessary, in others cases a radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy treatment is useful.
Since many patients can be cured or at least live a long time, it is essential to provide them with the psychological support that allows them to gradually incorporate their personal, social and work life.
What Are Leukemias?
Leukemias are abnormal blood cell proliferations originated from mutations in the stem cells of the bone marrow. The uncontrolled and progressive proliferation of these cells results in a replacement of the normal cells of the bone marrow, invading the blood and the different organs and tissues.
Leukemias encompass several diseases. Leukemias derived from each of the bone marrow cell series have been identified: lymphoblastic leukemia, myeloblastic leukemia, monocytic leukemia, myelomonocytic leukemia, etc.
In addition, according to their clinical course they are classified into: acute in which without treatment it leads to the death of the patient in weeks or months, and chronic, which can cause death in several months or years. The overall incidence is 9.9/100,000 inhabitants.
It could be said that the clinical manifestations of hairy cell leukemia are due directly or indirectly to the uncontrolled proliferation of leukemic cells and their infiltration into normal tissues. Thus, the significant decrease in the number of red blood cells, normal leukocytes and platelets is a consequence of the infiltration of the bone marrow, which can lead to hemorrhages and infections.
What Are Lymphomas?
Lymphomas are a type of cancer that develops in the lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system includes the network of lymphatic vessels and lymph nodes distributed throughout the body and in connection with the blood system. The lymphocytes that fight infections circulate through the lymphatic vessels. Other structures of the lymphatic system are the spleen, thymus, tonsils and bone marrow. It is also found in the mucosa of the stomach and intestine and in the own skin, which explains that lymphomas can appear in any of these areas, especially non-Hodgkin lymphomas.
The so-called Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphomas are in recognition of the English physician Thomas Hodgkin, who in 1832 described the well-known Hodgkin’s disease. The starting point is the lymphoid tissue, most of them of line B, and in a much lower frequency of T line. The normal B lymphocytes are the cells responsible for the immunity linked to the antibodies, so important in the defenses against bacterial infections. T lymphocytes are linked to cell-mediated immunity, against infections by viruses, fungi, etc.
Its incidence is 2-3/100,000 inhabitants, with an age distribution in two peaks: the first between 15 to 30 years, and the second in people over 50 years predominating in males. The etiological cause is unknown; recently it has been linked to the Epstein Barr virus. It is very possible that it is due to a combination of environmental and genetic factors; an example is the increased risk in siblings in which one of them suffers from the disease, especially in homozygous twins.
Another interesting fact is that, in HIV-positive individuals with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the vast majority are positive for the Epstein-Barr virus, responsible for infectious mononucleosis. Patients who have presented with infectious mononucleosis have a higher risk of suffering from this type of lymphoma.
It is a very heterogeneous set of processes. 80% of these lymphomas are of B origin and only 20% of T. The etiological cause is unknown; the relationship with other viruses or with a stomach bacterium has been revealed.
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