Lymphoma is a cancer that starts in the nodes or glands of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is part of the immune system and helps fight disease and infection. Some lymphomas start in the lymphatic tissue of organs such as the brain or stomach.
The lymphatic system
The lymphatic system is part of the immune system. It helps the body fight off infection. It also helps to maintain fluid balance in different parts of the body. It is made up of a series of thin tubes called lymphatic vessels. These vessels collect fluid, called lymph, from different parts of the body. Similar to blood vessels, these vessels then return the lymph to the bloodstream. Lymph is a colourless, watery fluid rich in white blood cells called lymphocytes. These cells play an important role in the immune system by protecting your body from infection. Lymphocytes are formed and stored in lymph nodes, which are pea-sized clusters of cells located throughout the body, such as in the armpit, groin and neck.
Organs of the lymphatic system
Some organs are also part of the lymphatic system. These include the spleen, thymus, adenoids, tonsils and bone marrow.
·The spleen is located under the lower left side of your chest. It produces lymphocytes, stores healthy blood cells and filters out damaged blood cells and bacteria.
·The thymus gland is located in the front of the chest at the base of the neck. It is central to the development of T lymphocytes.
·The adenoids and tonsils are areas of lymphoid tissue at the back of the throat. They're one of the first lines of defence against germs you breathe in or swallow.
·Bone marrow is the inner part of your bones. It makes red blood cells, platelets and white blood cells.
The difference between Hodgkin's lymphoma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is that the cells in each type of lymphoma look different under the microscope. They also spread differently. Hodgkin's spreads in a more predictable way and not as much as non-Hodgkin's.
In addition to Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, we are also a major referral centre for patients with skin lymphoma:
- Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma
Types of lymphocytes
There are 2 main types of lymphocytes:
1. One type is B lymphocytes, also known as B cells.
2. The other type is T lymphocytes, also called T cells.
The main role of B cells is to protect the body from bacteria and viruses by making proteins called antibodies. Antibodies attract other immune system cells and proteins that kill bacteria or viruses.
T cells have many different functions. Some protect the body by destroying cells infected with viruses or by releasing substances that attract other types of white blood cells. Others help to destroy some types of cancer cells.
Lymphoma can start in either B cells or T cells. Laboratory tests can help determine which type of cell the lymphoma started in by looking at substances on the surface of the cells. Getting this information is an important first step in choosing the best treatment.
(The above content is extracted from stanfordhealthcare.org)