Introduction to Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL) is a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system. It is quite a rare cancer, only 12,000 people a year in the UK suffer with the disease.
What is Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL) is a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system. It is quite a rare cancer, only 12,000 people a year in the UK suffer with the disease, and although it can affect any age, it tends to affect people over the age of 65. Your lymphatic system is part of your immune system, it pumps around a clear liquid called lymph that contains waste materials and important immune cells. In NHL the immune cells in the lymph multiply uncontrollably and accumulate in areas in the body such as the glands in the armpits or neck.
What are the causes for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?
NHL, like many cancers, is caused by a mutation in your DNA. This mutation causes problems with the production of a type of white blood cell called a lymphocyte. It is not fully understood why some people develop NHL and some don’t, but there are several factors which may put you at an increased risk. These include having particular medical conditions where your immune system is weakened such as HIV, or other conditions that affect the immune systems such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Coeliac Disease or Lupus.
What are the symptoms of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?
The most common symptom of NHL is a painless swelling in a gland, usually the in the armpit or neck. Other symptoms include night sweats, weight loss, fever, tiredness, breathlessness, persistent cough and a persistent itch. Sometimes people with NHL also have a problem with their bone marrow and this may cause you to be more susceptible to infections, to be more fatigued and sometimes to have excessive bleeding, such as nosebleed and heavy periods.
How is Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma treated?
Your treatment for NHL will depend on your age, general health status and what stage your cancer is at. In some cases, if the cancer is very small it will be able to be removed with a simple biopsy. Most people with NHL will be treated with chemotherapy, which is powerful medication that kills cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be given as an outpatient treatment, meaning you shouldn’t have to stay in hospital to receive the medication. You may also be offered radiotherapy, which is where a strong x-ray directly kills the cancer cells. Both treatments carry side-effects such as tiredness, nausea and vomiting, but both of these are only temporary. A specialist cancer doctor called an oncologist will be able to further advise you on this condition and answer any questions you have.