Lymphoma is a type of cancer that begins in immune system cells called lymphocytes. Like other cancers, lymphoma occurs when lymphocytes are in a state of uncontrolled cell growth and multiplication.
Lymphocytes are white blood cells that move throughout the body in a fluid called lymph.
The lymphatic system - whose job it is to fight infections or anything else that threatens the body.
There are two primary types of lymphocytes: B-cells and T-cells. Both are designed to recognize and destroy infections and abnormal cells.
Lymphoma occur when lymphocyte B or T cells transform and begin growing and multiplying uncontrollably. If abnormal lymphocytes travel from one lymph node to the next or to other organs, the cancer can spread or metastasize. Lymphoma may develop in many parts of the body, including the lymph nodes, spleen, bone marrow, blood or other organs.
There are two types of lymphoma: Hodgkin lymphoma (HL, also called Hodgkin's disease) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Both HL and NHL can occur in the same places and have similar symptoms. Their differences are visible at a microscopic level.
Hodgkin lymphoma develops from a specific abnormal lineage of B-cells. There are five subtypes of HL. NHL may derive from either abnormal B or T cells, and its 30 subtypes are distinguished by unique genetic markers. In the United States each year, some 54,000 people are diagnosed with NHL and 7,000 are diagnosed HL. It is the most common type of blood cancer in the US. The European Union sees over 50,000 cases of NHL every year.
Cancer is ultimately the result of cells that uncontrollably grow and do not die.
Lymphoma can be the result of a genetic predisposition that is inherited from family members.
Other medical factors
As we age, there is an increase in the number of possible cancer-causing mutations in our DNA. The risk of NHL increases as we age, and HL is most common between ages 16-34 and 55 years and older. Additional medical conditions that have been associated with higher lymphoma rates include infection with HIV, human T-lymphocytic virus type 1 (HTLV-1), Epstein-Barr virus, Helicobacter pylori, or hepatitis B or C; autoimmune disease (such as lupus); diseases that require therapies that suppress the immune system; and any other immunodeficiency diseases.
Common symptoms include:
• Swelling of lymph nodes, which may or may not be painless
• Unexplained weight loss
• Sweating (often at night)
• Lack of energy
In order to diagnose lymphoma, physicians will request a complete physical exam as well as personal and family medical histories and the only absolute way to make a cancer diagnosis is to remove a small sample of the tumor and look at it under the microscope in a procedure called a biopsy.
Blood tests will be used to test blood cell, kidney, and liver performance. They can also detect a chemical called lactase hydrogenase (LDH), of which high levels have been associated with an aggressive form of NHL.
Common imaging tests include:|
• Computerized tomography (CT) scans
• Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
• Positron emission tomography (PET) scans
After a diagnosis is made, doctors analyze the test results to find out how far the cancer has spread and to determine the stage of the cancer. The stage lets oncologists know which choices will be available for treatment and it informs prognoses with possible treatments of Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy.