What is Lymphoma?

What is Lymphoma

Lymphoma is a type of cancer that occurs in the lymphatic system which is responsible for fighting against infection in the body. Lymphoma is caused by the rapid growth of abnormal cells. Your lymphatic system is made up of lymph glands (nodes), the thymus gland, the spleen, and bone marrow.

Lymphoma develops in the white blood cells known as lymphocytes. Lymphocytes play an essential role in draining harmful fluid from the body as part of our immune system. There are two main types: B lymphocytes also known as B cells and T lymphocytes known as T cells.

Lymphoma can spread to different parts of the body quite rapidly and occurs more commonly in children and young adults. Lymphoma if detected early is very much treatable with the right lymphoma treatment plan.

If you are an avid cricket fan then you may have read about one of New Zealand’s finest players, Martin Crowe. Martin Crowe was diagnosed with an aggressive form of follicular lymphoma in 2012. Although he battled the disease and entered remission, cancer returned in 2014, and he later succumbed to the disease in 2016

Different Types of Lymphoma

There are over 70 different types of lymphoma. These different types are divided into two broad groups: Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a more common type of cancer and develops mostly in older adults. There are various lymphoma treatment options available including chemotherapy, targeted monoclonal antibody treatment, immunotherapy, and radiation to treat non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
Hodgkin’s lymphoma also referred to as Hodgkin’s disease develops in the B cells found in the bone marrow. Although an uncommon type of lymphoma, if detected early it is one of the most curable types of cancer. Hodgkin lymphoma is usually diagnosed in young adults. Lymphoma treatment available includes chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and radiation.

The Difference Between Non-Hodgkin’s and Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

The main difference between non-Hodgkin’s and Hodgkin’s lymphoma is the type of lymphocyte affected. We talk more about diagnosis later.

Other differences between non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma are:
● Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is more common than Hodgkin’s lymphoma
● Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is present mainly in older adults aged 60 or above
● Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is usually diagnosed at a more advanced stage. Hodgkin’s lymphoma is commonly diagnosed at an earlier stage making it easily curable.

Although there are various differences between non-Hodgkin’s and Hodgkin’s lymphoma, their symptoms can be quite similar.

Symptoms of Non-Hodgkin’s & Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

If you do experience any of the symptoms mentioned above you can consult your doctor who can carry out a physical examination.

What are the common risk factors for Non-Hodgkin’s and Hodgkin’s lymphoma?

There are some common and also different risk factors for non-Hodgkin’s and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Risk Factors

How is Non-Hodgkin’s and Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosed?

Non-Hodgkin’s and Hodgkin’s lymphoma is diagnosed by performing a surgically excised tissue biopsy. A biopsy involves removing part of the abnormal tissue for further investigation.
Immunohistochemistry (IHC) is a process carried out under a microscope to identify the developmental stage and type of lymphoma using a panel of various antibodies to see what markers are present.

Hodgkin’s lymphoma is diagnosed when the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells is detected under a microscope. These cells come from B cells and are not present in non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Other imaging tests like a CT scan or MRI can help identify abnormal growths or enlarged lymph nodes in the body.

Lymphoma Treatment

Lymphoma treatment is planned according to the stage. The stage is determined by how far cancer has spread. For example, cancer that has metastasized (spread) to other organs in the body has reached an advanced stage and would require aggressive treatment. Another consideration for lymphoma treatment also depends on how the tumor is “graded”. Tumours are graded depending on how quickly they are growing.

How is lymphoma staged?

You may hear your doctor refer to your cancer in the “early stage” or “advanced stage.” Let’s take a look at how staging is determined:

Early Stages
Stage 1:
This is when lymphoma is present in only one group of lymph nodes. For example, it could be present in the neck.

Stage 1E:
Referred to as extranodal lymphoma, this stage indicates that lymphoma is present in a single part of the body which is not a part of the lymphatic system.

Stage 2:
This stage is diagnosed when two or more groups of lymph nodes are affected in the same part of the diaphragm.

Stage 2E:
This is when lymphoma is present in both a single organ outside the lymphatic system and in one or more groups of lymph nodes.

Advanced Stages
Stage 3:
This is when lymphoma has been diagnosed in organs or lymph nodes in both parts of the diaphragm.

Stage 4:
Considered the most advanced stage of lymphoma, stage 4 is when the lymphoma, originally present in the lymph nodes, has spread to other parts of the body, for example, the lungs or liver.

What happens next?

Once the type of lymphoma is determined, you may meet various medical professionals like hematologists who specialize in immune disease and blood, oncologists who specialize in cancer, and pathologists who will help devise the right lymphoma treatment plan according to the type of lymphoma.

Lymphoma treatment includes targeting and killing the cancerous cells with radiation or targeted medications with chemotherapy. Radiation and chemotherapy are commonly used separately or in combination with other lymphoma treatment therapies. Other lymphoma treatment options to
help build the immune system to fight against cancer include:
● Surgery
● Stem Cell Transplant
● Antibody Therapy
● Biologic Therapy
● Radioimmunotherapy

Post-Treatment Follow-Ups & Lifestyle Tips for Lymphoma

After successfully beating cancer, you will be advised to follow-up with your doctor at least every 2 – 3 months for the first year. These follow-ups are crucial during this period post treatment as the risk of recurrence (cancer returning) is highest.
After the first year, your appointments may be more spread out and can be scheduled 2 -3 times a year for 5 years.
Here are some lifestyle tips for lymphoma survivors:

For further information or to book a consultation, you can contact Zeeva Clinic.

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