Lymphoma is cancer that affects the lymphatic system in the body. This organ system performs the key function of defending the body against external infections and diseases. It comprises the lymph nodes, bone marrow and spleen.
Lymphoma is a rare cancer, like schwannoma, occurring in less than a million people worldwide every year. Also Read: Schwannoma: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
The chief underlying trigger of a lymphoma is yet to be identified, but it is caused by genetic mutations in the DNA of lymphocytes - the specialised cells of the lymphatic system. This results in the uncontrolled proliferation of the lymph tissues, with the cancerous cells surviving much longer than normal healthy cells. If left untreated, the lymphoma can spread from the primary site of origin - the lymph nodes, spleen and bone marrow to other secondary sites in the body such as the lungs, liver and kidney. Also Read: Kidney Disease: Signs & Symptoms
There are two main types of lymphoma namely:
- Hodgkin's Lymphoma
- Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
As is the case with any cancer, lymphoma also needs immediate medical treatment once signs are recognised in the individual.
Specific attributes in a person predispose them to acquire lymphoma, including:
- Increased age, particularly over 50 years
- Being an adult male, as lymphoma is observed in significantly more men than women
- Having a vulnerable immune system, especially if one has recently contracted the Epstein Barr Virus or an ulcer due to Helicobacter pylori
The characteristic symptoms of lymphoma comprise the following:
- Swelling and inflammation in the lymph nodes present in the neck and armpits
- Incessant fatigue with fever
- Sudden loss of weight
- Itching and soreness in the skin
- Difficulty breathing, with sweating in the night
Diagnosis And Treatment:
The doctor first conducts an external physical exam, to look for any protrusions in the neck, armpits, groin, spleen and liver where the lymphocytes occur.
Next, tissues are excised from the lymph node and bone marrow, as well as a blood sample, is taken, to analyse if any abnormal modifications are present in them.
Imaging tests like CT scans, MRI and PET are also taken of the patient, to determine if any irregular growths have developed in the lymph nodes.Treatment comprises radiotherapy, chemotherapy and in more severe instances, bone marrow or stem cell transplants, to eliminate the cancerous cells from the lymphatic system and aid in speedy recovery of the patient.