Lymphoma is the name for the cancer, that develops from lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cells. Lymphocytes are present in the lymphatic system of our body. The lymphatic system includes the lymph nodes or lymph glands, lymphatic vessels and other lymphatic organs like spleen, thymus gland and bone marrow. In lymphoma, the normal lymphocytes change and become diseased and they also grow out of proportions.
Before commenting on what are the first signs of lymphoma, it is good to see what the types of lymphoma are.
Types Of Lymphoma
There is a wide range of classification available for lymphoma. However, the two main types of lymphoma are
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma is the commonest type of lymphoma.
Both of these are the cancers affecting the lymphocytes. However, there is a difference between these two. The difference lies in what type of cells are found when the cancerous cells are observed under a microscope.
What Are The First Signs Of Lymphoma?
The first signs of lymphoma can be very non-specific. Hence, they can be easily missed. Also, except for the difference in the type of cell, both types of lymphomas may present with similar kind of symptoms, which may be listed as below-
Generally, a primary presentation in lymphoma is the enlarged or swollen lymph nodes. This is also known as lymphadenopathy. These enlarged lymph glands are often painless.
- Some other symptoms may include fever and night sweats
- There may also be an unwanted weight loss.
- There may be a loss of appetite, also known as anorexia.
- There can be fatigue and severe tiredness.
- Sometimes, there can be a respiratory distress too.
- Itching can be felt sometimes at the site of the enlargement of the lymph nodes.
- Sometimes, the spleen may be enlarged.
- There might be pain just after drinking alcohol in some cases.
- Stomach pain may also be present
- A rash is seen in some cases.
As the symptoms are very non-specific, it is very easy to overlook them and diagnose a lymphoma at an early stage. It is then usually diagnosed, when a cancer has progressed to a later stage.
Causes Of Lymphoma
Most of the times, the exact cause of lymphoma is not known. But, it is seen to be developing when the lymphocyte undergoes a genetic mutation. As a result, the normal lymphocytes get diseased and then these diseased lymphocytes keep on multiplying, thus increasing their number horrendously. The old lymphocytes do not die as they should and hence their population keeps on increasing. As a result of this abnormal accumulation, the lymph nodes swell.
Though the exact cause is not known, there are some points which can be considered as risk factors.
- Age- some lymphomas are more common in a younger age while most of them are diagnosed above the age of 50.
- It is also seen that men are more likely to be affected by lymphoma, than women.
- It is also seen more in those persons who already have an immune system disease.
- It is also seen more in those people who are on immune suppressant drugs.
- Some infections are also linked with more risk for lymphoma, like H. pylori infection.
- Heredity may play a role as a risk factor too.
- Certain studies link exposure to benzene as a potential risk factor too.
- Those who are exposed to radiation have an increased risk.
Those with a past history of lymphoma, may equally be at risk in spite of the treatment being completed and total recovery achieved.
The prognosis of lymphoma depends on a number of factors like the type and the size of the lymphoma. The later the diagnosis and later the stage, the more difficult it is to get a complete recovery.