Lymphoma

Lymphoma is cancer of the lymphatic system, which aids the immune system in clearing out toxins and waste. It is a type of blood cancer that occurs when lymphocytes, white blood cells that help protect the body from infections, begin behaving abnormally. Abnormal lymphocytes may divide faster than normal cells or they may live longer than they are supposed to.  

Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) vs. non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL)

According to the America Cancer Fund, lymphoma may develop in many parts of the body, including the lymph nodes, spleen, bone marrow, blood, or other organs. Hodgkin lymphoma begins when a lymphocyte (usually a B cell) becomes abnormal. The abnormal cell is called a Reed-Sternberg cell. Lymphoma is is broken down into two categories: Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).

HL

is one of the most curable forms of cancer, according to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The disease goes after blood and bone marrow and is usually diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 35. HL affects more men than women. Many experts believe that a weakened immune system due to HIV or Epstein-Barr infection may increase the risk of developing HL. According to the National Cancer Institute, over 9,000 new cases of HL are diagnosed each year. The condition is linked to roughly 1,100 annual deaths.

NHL

NHL is different in that it’s characterized by cancerous masses stemming from white blood cells. This can lead to tumors of the lymph nodes. It is far more common that HL. In fact, over 70,000 new cases are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. It also accounts for nearly 19,000 annual deaths. In the majority of cases, NHL is contained to the lymphatic system. However, it is capable of spreading to other organs.

Symptoms of lymphoma

Symptoms of lymphoma can vary. Since this form of cancer originates in the lymphatic system, it is often associated with swelling of the lymph nodes. (Lymph nodes can be found in the neck, groin and underarms.) Common symptoms include:
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Fever and night sweats
In some cases of HL, the lymph nodes may be sensitive after drinking alcohol.  

Treatment

In terms of treatment, chemotherapy and radiation are common approaches. Immunotherapy, which aims to strengthen the immune system, can also be effective in battling lymphoma. Another treatment approach is stem cell transplantation. This approach uses healthy stem cells to help the body develop new bone marrow.

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