LYMPHOMA

Definition:

Lymphoma is a group of blood cancers that develop from lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell). The name often refers to just the cancerous versions rather than all such tumors.

Lymphoma is cancer that begins in infection-fighting cells of the immune system, called lymphocytes. These cells are in the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus, bone marrow, and other parts of the body. When you have lymphoma, lymphocytes change and grow out of control.

There are two main types of lymphoma:

Non-Hodgkin: Most people with lymphoma have this type.

Hodgkin

Non-Hodgkin and Hodgkin lymphoma each affect a different kind of lymphocyte. Every type of lymphoma grows at a different rate and responds differently to treatment.

Even though lymphoma is cancer, it is very treatable. Many cases can even be cured. Your doctor can help you find the right treatment for your type of the illness.
Lymphoma is different from leukemia. Each of these cancers starts in a different type of cell.

Lymphoma starts in infection-fighting lymphocytes.

Leukemia starts in blood-forming cells inside bone marrow.

Lymphoma is also not the same as lymphedema, which is a collection of fluid that forms under the skin when lymph nodes are damaged.

Causes of Lymphoma

Scientists don’t know what causes lymphoma in most cases.
You might be more likely to get it if you:

Are in your 60s or older

Are male

Have a weak immune system from HIV/AIDS, an organ transplant, or because you were born with an immune disease

Have an immune system disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren’s syndrome, lupus, or celiac disease

Have been infected with a virus such as Epstein-Barr, hepatitis C, human T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (HTLV-1), or human herpesvirus 8 (HHV8)

Have a close relative who had lymphoma

Were exposed to benzene or chemicals that kill bugs and weeds

Were treated for Hodgkin or non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the past

Were treated for cancer with radiation

Are overweight

Symptoms of Lymphoma

Warning signs that you might have lymphoma include:

Swollen glands (lymph nodes), often in the neck, armpit, or groin

Cough

Shortness of breath

Fever

Night sweats

Stomach pain

Fatigue

Weight loss

Itching

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma – Treatment

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is usually treated with cancer-killing medication or radiotherapy, although some people may not need treatment straight away.
Treatment options:

Chemotherapy

High-dose chemotherapy

Radiotherapy

Monoclonal antibody therapy

Steroid medication

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a widely used treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which involves using medicine to kill cancer cells. It may be used on its own, combined with biological therapy and/or combined with radiotherapy

If doctors think your cancer is curable, you’ll normally receive chemotherapy through a drip directly into a vein (intravenous chemotherapy). If a cure is unlikely, you may only need to take chemotherapy tablets to help relieve your symptoms.

If there’s a risk of the cancer spreading to your brain, you may have chemotherapy injections directly into the cerebrospinal fluid around your spine.

Chemotherapy is usually given over a period of a few months on an outpatient basis, which means you shouldn’t have to stay in hospital overnight. However, there may be times when your symptoms or the side effects of treatment become particularly troublesome, and a longer hospital stay may be needed.

Chemotherapy can have several side effects, the most significant of which is potential damage to your bone marrow. This can interfere with the production of healthy blood cells and cause the following problems:

fatigue

breathlessness

increased vulnerability to infection

bleeding and bruising more easily

Other possible side effects of chemotherapy include:

nausea and vomiting

diarrhoea

loss of appetite

mouth ulcers

tiredness

skin rashes

hair loss

Temporary infertility

High-dose chemotherapy

If non-Hodgkin lymphoma doesn’t get better with initial treatment (known as “refractory” lymphoma), you may have a course of chemotherapy at a stronger dose.

However, this intensive chemotherapy destroys your bone marrow, leading to the problems mentioned above. You’ll need a stem cell or bone marrow transplants to replace the damaged bone marrow.

Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy is most often used to treat early-stage non-Hodgkin lymphoma, where the cancer is only in one part of the body.

Treatment is normally given in short daily sessions, Monday to Friday, over several weeks. You should not have to stay in hospital between appointments.

Radiotherapy itself is painless, but it can have some significant side effects. These can vary, depending on which part of your body is being treated. For example, treatment to your throat can lead to a sore throat, while treatment to the head can lead to hair loss.

Other common side effects include:

sore and red skin in the treatment area

tiredness

nausea and vomiting

dry mouth

loss of appetite

Hair loss

Most side effects are temporary, but there’s a risk of long-term problems, including infertility and permanently darkened skin in the treatment area.

Monoclonal antibody therapy

For some types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, you may have a type of medication called a monoclonal antibody.

These medications attach themselves to the surface of cancerous cells and stimulate the immune system to attack and kill the cells. They’re often given in combination with chemotherapy to make the treatment more effective.

For some types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, you may continue having monoclonal antibody treatment regularly for up to two years after initial treatment, in combination with chemotherapy. This can reduce the chances of the cancer coming back in the future.

One of the main monoclonal antibody medications used to treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma is called rituximab. This medication is administered directly into your vein over the course of a few hours.

Side effects of rituximab can include:

flu-like symptoms, such as a headaches, fever and chills

tiredness

nausea

an itchy rash

Steroid medication

Steroid medication is commonly used in combination with chemotherapy to treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma. This is because research has shown that using steroids makes the chemotherapy more effective.

The steroid medication is normally given as tablets, usually at the same time as your chemotherapy. A short course of steroids, lasting no more than a few months, is usually recommended, as this limits the number of side effects you could have.

Common side effects of short-term steroid use include:

increased appetite, which can lead to weight gain

indigestion

problems sleeping

feeling agitated

 

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