Cancer is nothing but an abnormal growth of cells and this unwanted growth can take place in almost every part of our body. It can also affect other areas and thus early detection and treatment are vital. Lymphoma is a kind of cancer which has its roots in lymphocytes, which are a set of white blood cells. It affects the body’s immune system and in turns a person’s ability to fight against germs, infections, diseases and recovery from these. Being present in the bloodstream makes it easier for lymphomas to spread out. Lymphomas are widely classified as hodgkin’s and non-hodgkin’s lymphoma, which is based on the type of lymphocyte that has been affected. If on microscopic inspection of the lymphoma cells, Reed-Sternberg cell types are found it is classified as Hodgkin’s lymphoma and in the absence of these then it is non-hodgkin’s lymphoma. Both types have different strategies for treatment and this classification is very important for the doctor to proceed.
Who Is At Risk For Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma?
When taking a look at gender, men have been observed to be more prone to it than women for unknown reasons. Throughout the world, developed countries from Europe and the United States of America have more reported cases of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in comparison with undeveloped countries.
A history of cancer in the family also increases one’s chances of being affected by it. While conclusive research is still going on, chemical agents such as certain insecticides and benzene can increase the risk of one having Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Other drugs that increase risk include drugs used for chemotherapy, treatment of rheumatoid arthritis which is an autoimmune disease and people suffering with it are already at a higher risk.
Exposure to radiation therapy or other harmful radiations has also been linked as a risk factor.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can be found to develop in lymph nodes, the spleen, bone marrow, thymus, tonsils, and the digestive tract and sometimes even the skin, but it is most often lymph nodes or tissue. Non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma is mostly found in adults but can be found in children too.
Mutations in DNA can cause abnormalities in the speed of cell division and destruction and hence are found to be a cause for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
A major cause of getting non-hodgkin’s lymphoma is a depleted immune system, which may be due to various reasons like certain drugs, organ transplants and HIV. The presence of an immune deficiency substantially increases a person’s risk of being affected.
Autoimmune disease and infections are other causes as the immune system is always at work.
Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma has 4 stages based on the extent of growth of cancer and it may be termed as “Bulky Disease” or “Chronic lymphocytic leukemia” in extreme cases where more attention is required. While many of the symptoms caused by cancer may be caused by other diseases as well, some usual symptoms are:
- Chilling sensations
- Unanticipated Weight loss
- Easy bruising
- Swollen belly
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Chest pain
- Loss of appetite
- Frequent infections
- Red lumps under the skin, itching in case of the skin is affected
In some cases, there may be no symptoms at all till the time the non-hodgkin’s lymphoma reaches an advanced stage. According to statistics around 75% of people diagnosed in America are older than 55 and the likelihood of getting it increases with age. It can be further classified on the basis of the type of lymphocyte into B cell type and T cell type and on the basis of growth speed into indolent and aggressive types. The World Health Organization suggests classification based on the features of chromosomes and the presence of specific proteins as well.
While research has been done and a lot of research is still in progress, there is no definitive answer to what causes it and which people are affected by non-hodgkin’s lymphoma. Statistically, an important observation is that chances of it increases with one’s age.