A special type of white blood cell, called a lymphocyte, is a necessary cell for your body’s resistance to disease. These cells get exposed to a variety of substances within the body in an attempt to build immunity. These white blood cells also collect and filter the substances at the Lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are found particularly in the neck, armpits, groin, above the heart and around the large blood vessels inside the abdomen. Lymphocytes may also group together in the thymus, spleen and tonsils. Lymphoma is a type of cancer that appears in the lymphocytes in any of the aforementioned areas.
HOW MANY TYPES OF LYMPHOMA ARE THERE?
- Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (the most common kind of lymphoma)
Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma both affect a different kind of lymphocyte. Even though lymphoma is cancer, it is very treatable and in many cases is curable.
The rate at which lymphomas grow and how they respond to treatment depend on the type of lymphoma you have. Every type of lymphoma grows at a different rate and responds differently with treatment.
SYMPTOMS OF LYMPHOMA
Some alarm bells or warning signs that you might have lymphoma include:
- Swollen glands (lymph nodes), often in the neck, armpit, or groin
- Shortness of breath
- Night sweats
- Stomach pain
- Unintentional weight loss
The symptoms and signs of lymphoma are very similar to those of a common cold and virus heightening the chances of a delayed diagnosis which can cause the lymphoma to progress further.
Although they both have similar symptoms, the difference with lymphoma is that the symptoms persist long after the usual run of a viral infection.
TREATMENT OPTIONS AVAILABLE FOR LYMPHOMA
Chemotherapy drugs;are either injected into the veins in your hand or swallowed as pills. Each course of treatment is given at regulated intervals in order to kill cancer cells and allow the body to recover.
Radiation therapy is a localized treatment that uses high-energy rays to target and kill lymphoma cells wherever the rays are directed. The area treated is solely the lymph nodes or even the organ affected by lymphoma or, in some cases, to a wider area encompassing the lymph nodes in the chest, neck and under both armpits. It may be given alone or coupled with chemotherapy.
Immunotherapy uses your body’s own immune system to attack and kill cancer cells.
STEM CELL TRANSPLANT
If chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy don’t work, you may need to have a stem cell;transplant. First you’ll get very high doses of chemotherapy in order to kill the cancer cells; however it will also destroy stem cells in your bone marrow that make new blood cells. After chemotherapy, you will have a transplant of stem cells to replace the ones that were destroyed.
The two types of stem cell transplants that can be done are:
- Autologous transplant: This transplant uses your own stem cells
- Allogeneic transplant: This transplant uses stem cells taken from a donor
Although a doctor may suspect a patient has leukemia based on a number of signs and symptoms, it can only be diagnosed using laboratory tests.
- History taking & physical exam: During a physical examination, your doctor will ask you questions to help rule out other explanations for the symptoms. A physical examination will then follow in all cases where there is a suspected lymphoma – palpating areas of the body where any swollen lymph nodes may be felt. The doctor may also feel around your abdomen to examine your spleen and liver. During the physical examination, the doctor will also look out for signs of infection near lymph nodes, since in most cases, this can be explain the swelling.
- Blood tests: A blood test will check the number of certain cells in your blood.
- Bone marrow aspiration or biopsy: In this test, your doctor uses a needle to remove fluid or tissue from your bone marrow – the spongy part within your bone where blood cells are created – to look for lymphoma cells.
- Chest X-ray: A chest x-ray uses radiation in low doses to take images of the inside of your chest.
- MRI: An MRI machine uses powerful magnets and radio waves to make images of organs and structures within your body.
- PET scan: It uses a radioactive substance to look for cancer cells in your body.
- Molecular test: A molecular test looks for changes to your genes, proteins, and other substances in cancer cells to help your doctor distinguish the type of lymphoma you have.