Overview of Lymphoma

The lymphatic system is the system that is part of the body’s way to fight off germs. Lymphoma is cancer that occurs in the lymphatic system, which includes the lymph nodes, thymus gland, bone marrow, and spleen. Lymphoma can affect any of these areas as well as other parts of the body. There are two main types of lymphoma, which include Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Other types include: Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia, cutaneous t-cell lymphoma, cutaneous b-cell lymphoma, and chronic lymphocytic leukemia. The type of treatment that you receive with Lymphoma will depend on the severity, your age, and your health.

Symptoms of Lymphoma

There are a variety of symptoms that are associated with lymphoma. The main ones to watch for are: swelling in the lymph nodes, fever, night sweats, fatigue, itchy skin, shortness of breath, and unexplained weight loss. You will want to see your physician if any of these symptoms are persistent. Since there are so many types of lymphoma, symptoms will vary between each person. If you notice any new symptoms, it is important to consult with your physician.

Causes of Lymphoma

There are no known causes of lymphoma. It is known to begin when a white blood cell called a lymphocyte develops a mutation. The mutation causes the cell to multiply rapidly.

Risk Factors of Lymphoma

There are a few risk factors that are associated with lymphoma. Depending on the type of lymphoma, there may be different people that it will affect. Some types of lymphoma are more common in young adults, while some may be more prominent in people over the age of 55 years old. Male are more likely to develop lymphoma than women. Lymphoma is also the most common in people that have an impaired immune system or people who are on medications that suppress their immune system.

Diagnosis of Lymphoma

The first step in diagnosing lymphoma is to go through a physical exam. Your physician will check all of your lymph nodes, which includes your liver, spleen, groin, underarm and neck. Your physician may also want to remove a lymph node and have it biopsied to see if there are lymphoma cells are present and what type of cells are involved. A blood test can be done to count the number of cells that are in your blood. A bone marrow aspiration and biopsy may be ordered in some cases as well. This will include inserting a needle into the hip bone to extract bone marrow and analyzing the cells. An imaging test may be done to see if there are signs of lymphoma in other parts of the body. This may be a computerized tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or positron emission tomography (PET) scan. Depending on your situation, your physician may order a variety of other tests.

Treatment of Lymphoma

The treatment that you receive for lymphoma will depend on the type and stage of the disease, your preferences, and your health. The goal of any cancer treatment is to destroy the cancer cells. Lymphoma is a very slow growing cancer and, in some cases, your physician may not begin treatment until the cancer has progressed. Until treatment begins, it is essential to continue with testing to see how fast the cancer is growing.

Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to destroy cancer cells. This drug can be administered through your vein or taken as a pill. You and your physician will decide which works best for you.

Radiation can kill the cancer through a high-powered energy beam to kill cancer cells.

A bone marrow transplant or stem cell transplant uses high doses of radiation and chemotherapy to suppress the bone marrow. Healthy bone marrow stem cells from your body or a donor are infused into the blood. Once they are infused, then they will travel to the bones and rebuild the bone marrow.

There are a variety of other treatments that can be used to treat lymphoma. You will want to talk to your physician about what will work best in your situation.

Support with Lymphoma

The best way to cope with lymphoma is to do your research and learn all that you can about this disease state. Ask your physician plenty of questions about what you are going through and what to expect in the future. Once you have this information, you can begin doing more research. This will help you navigate your cancer and help you feel more confident in your appointments to ask other questions or look for different testing or treatment routes.

It is important to have a support person or group of support people with your during this time. Have one of them attend your appointments with you. This person can take notes and help remind you of what the physician said once you get home. Your support person or group can provide both emotional and practical support.

You may also want to find a support person who is outside of your family; possibly someone who has gone through what you are going through. You may also want to look at hiring a counselor or speaking with a clergy member or cancer support group.

It will likely make you more comfortable to prepare properly for your appointment. It may be helpful to keep a notebook of everything you would like to go over. Start by thinking about the symptoms that you are experiencing and write those down. Next, think of any personal information that is important, such as if you have any new stress, or life changes. You will also want to write down any medications that you are taking. Lastly, it is important to write down any thoughts or questions you have for your physician. Having these ideas together will help your remember items that you would like to discuss during your appointment. You may ask your support person to help you read and write down any notes during the appointment. Having an extra person there will help you understand everything that is said during your appointment.