Is Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma A Blood Cancer?
Non-hodgkin’s lymphoma is a cancer that originates in the lymphatic system and immune systems. It is a blood cancer involving the white blood cells that are called the lymphocytes and lymph node tissues. It is subdivided into B-cell lymphomas and T-cell lymphomas that arise from B-cells and T-cells respectively. These cells help protect the body from infection and disease. A lymphoma occurs when these developing cells undergo malignant changes and multiply uncontrollably. These abnormal cells called as lymphocytes form collection of tumor cells in lymph nodes (glands) and other parts of the body.
Causes Of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
The exact cause of non-hodgkin’s lymphoma remains unknown, but research indicates the possibility of them occurring as a result of damage to genes that are responsible for controlling the development of blood cells. Most of the cases diagnosed with the disease do not have a family history of lymphoma. The other possible reasons for the development of lymphoma are immunosuppression (either due to a viral illness or a result of medications that weaken your immune system), infection (Epstein EBV Barr virus or the human T-cell leukemia/lymphoma virus might damage the developing lymphocytes), certain chemicals (high concentrations of agricultural chemicals) and lifestyle factors that consist of obesity and chronic use of tobacco.
Non-hodgkin’s lymphoma can affect people of any age but it is more common in adults over the age of 50 years. They also occur more frequently in men as compared to women. In children non-hodgkin’s lymphoma and leukemia are commonly seen, which tends to grow rapidly in them but are often curable.
Symptoms Of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
In the early stage of non-hodgkin’s lymphoma disease most people do not develop any symptoms. They are usually detected in routine tests for other diseases, such as an X-ray. Non-hodgkin’s lymphoma commonly presents with a strong, generally painless inflammation of lymph node (swollen glands due to infection), most commonly seen under the arms, neck, or in your groin region. The other non-hodgkin’s lymphoma symptoms include regular and frequent episodes of fever, excessive sweating mostly at night, sudden weight loss, and feeling of fatigue or weakness and generalized itching over the body. In some cases lymphoma occurs in the deeper parts of the body such as the abdomen and chest causing the abdominal lymph nodes to enlarge that leads to bloating, and coughing/discomfort or difficulty breathing in the chest. Mostly by the time the lymphoma is diagnosed, it has already spread to several different sites of the body including the spleen, liver, brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) and bone marrow.
Diagnosis Of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
A complete physical exam is done along with a number of additional tests to confirm the diagnosis of non-hodgkin’s lymphoma. While doing a physical test the physician lays special focus on palpating the lymph nodes in your groin, underarms and neck to establish if the swelling is present or not. However, lymph node swelling is a sign of infection but it is important to rule out non-hodgkin’s lymphoma early in its development.
Blood tests are done to know the WBC count. Extra exams done are lactate dehydrogenase levels that are high in lymphoma. A CT scan or chest X-ray of your chest and neck is done to detect tumors or enlarged lymph nodes. PET scan or positron emission tomography is a latest technique to detect lymphoma. Lastly the biopsy of the lymph node is done to establish a diagnosis. Your bone marrow biopsy will tell about the spread of non-hodgkin’s lymphoma.
How Is Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Managed?
The treatment depends upon the staging of non-hodgkin’s lymphoma, the age of the patient and the progression of the disease. A slow growing tumor without symptoms does not require treatment right away, but a close watch on the patient for any worsening symptoms is needed.
When the non-hodgkin’s lymphoma is advanced then a combination of chemotherapy, biological therapy and sometimes radiation therapy is required for an aggressive tumor. Stem cell treatment is also widely being used nowadays, mostly after the relapse of the disease. Along with medical therapies, supportive care is also required.
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