Lymphoma is a form of cancer in the blood. This disease is contracted when T or B lymphocytes live longer than they are supposed to or divide quicker than normal cells. T or B lymphocytes are white blood cells that protect the body from disease and infection and make up some of the body’s immune system. The cancer may develop in the many areas. This includes the lymph nodes, spleen, bone marrow, blood or some other organs. In the United States, 7000 people are diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and 54 000 people are diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma annually.
Cancer symptoms vary from case to case, and depend on where the cancer has spread, where it was originally located, and how big the tumor is. Lymphoma usually begins with swelling under the arm, in the neck, or the groin. There may also be additional swelling in the spleen or any other area where lymph nodes are located. These enlarged lymph nodes can cause more swelling in the legs and arms, or a sense of numbness and tingling. It may also cause people to lose their appetite. Other symptoms include chills, a fever, night sweats, weight loss, itching and lethargy. The National Cancer Institute has more information about lymphoma and its encompassing symptoms.
Lymphoma, like all cancer, happens when cells grow uncontrollably and do not die. Regular cells follow a constant path: they grow, divide, and die. When this process breaks down, the result is cancer. Scientists do not know the exact cause of lymphoma, but have identified a few potential risk factors. One of these risk factors is genetics. A genetic predisposition that causes lymphoma can be inherited from previous family members. You may be born with a fault in a gene or other genetic mutations that make it more likely for you to develop cancer such as lymphoma. Another risk factor is carcinogens. Carcinogens refer to a class of substances that aid or promote cancer and damage DNA. This includes exposure to certain herbicides, pesticides, and solvents that have been linked with lymphoma. Other medical factors include infection with hepatitis B or C or HIV, old age, autoimmune disease such as lupus, and other immunodeficiency diseases.
Unfortunately, there are no known ways to prevent lymphoma. It is important to avoid viral conditions or infections that suppress the immune system. This means maintaining a healthy lifestyle to avoid viral infections, such as washing your hands, getting enough sleep and maintaining healthy sleeping patterns, eating properly and exercising daily. This also means avoiding viruses like HIV. HIV is caused by drug users sharing contaminated needles and unprotected sex, and can severely damage your immune system. Avoiding drugs and using protection are excellent methods to prevent HIV and thus reduce your risk of lymphoma. Some studies suggest that being obese or overweight may lead to lymphoma, but this has not been confirmed. Nevertheless, staying at a healthy weight and exercising frequently will help your health in general.
Cancer treatment depends on the stage of the cancer, the type of cancer, how much it has spread, and the age and health status of the patient (as well as other characteristics). Lymphoma treatment is intended to completely remove the disease.
Common lymphoma treatments include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and biological therapy. Radiation destroys cancer by using high-energy rays on the cells affected by cancer. Side effects include nausea, mild skin changes, fatigue and diarrhea. Chemotherapy targets cancer cells and all cells that are dividing rapidly. Side effects include nausea, hair loss, vomiting, and fatigue. Most aggressive forms of lymphoma can be treated and symptoms can be controlled. Patients who have a poor response to therapy however, have a worse prognosis. Patients with certain types of lymphoma live relatively normal lifespans (although the disease is incurable, and can never be completely removed). When the cancer has metastasized however, the survival rate drops to 59.9%.