Introduction to Lymphoma
Lymphoma is an uncommon cancer of the cells of the lymphatic system. There are two main types; Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (90%) depending on the cell type involved.
What is a Lymphoma?
Lymphoma is an uncommon cancer of the cells of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a network similar to the blood vessel network but also contains glands (lymph nodes), which are found around the body and contains a clear fluid called lymph. The cells that are found in this network are called lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell which are usually responsible for fighting infection. There are two main types; Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (90%) depending on the cell type involved. Patients usually go to their Doctor regarding a painless swelling of a lymph node usually in the groin, armpit or neck area. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is most common in patients over the age of 65 and Hodgkin-lymphoma is commonest in people of the age groups 20s or 70s; although lymphoma can occur at any age.
What causes a Lymphoma?
The cause of lymphoma is unknown although having been infected with Epstein-barr virus and certain other viruses, having a weakened immune system (through infection – HIV, or through medication – chemotherapy), an autoimmune condition (e.g. lupus) and/or coeliac disease can increase the chance of developing a mutation which can lead to the development of lymphoma.
What are the symptoms of a Lymphoma?
A painless lump in the groin, armpit or neck area is the commonest presenting complaint. Patients can have general symptoms such as night sweats, fever, cough, breathlessness, itching across the body and unintentional weight loss. If a lymph node swells large enough, it can compress surrounding tissues and cause problems in that area (e.g. difficulty swallowing if in the throat area).
How is a Lymphoma treated?
The treatment plan will be carefully coordinated within a multidisciplinary team (MDT) and will depend on your health, age and choice. The MDT team will involve many specialties who will be involved in your care. There are many different approaches, from watchful waiting to chemotherapy, radiotherapy, monoclonal antibody therapy and steroid treatment. All of the treatments have advantages and disadvantages and patients will often experience side effects from some of the treatments. Your Doctor will ensure you are fully informed and aware of your treatment plan and will be available throughout your treatment for any concerns you may have.