What Is Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma?
Non-Hodgkins lymphoma is a type of cancer in the lymphatic system. Non-Hodgkins lymphoma causes the cells in the lymphatic system to abnormally reproduce, eventually causing tumors to grow. Because lymph tissue is found throughout the body, adult non-Hodgkins lymphoma can begin in almost any part of the body. Cancer can spread to the liver and many other organs and tissues.
People have survived every stage of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. People with non-Hodgkins lymphoma now have more treatment choices and more hope for survival than ever before.
What are possible signs of Non-Hodgkins lymphoma?
The following are the most common symptoms of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
• Painless swelling of lymph nodes in neck, underarm, and/or groin
• Fever for no known reason
• Drenching night sweats
• Feeling very tired
• Weight loss for no known reason
• Skin rash or itchy skin
• Recurring infections
• Swelling or pain in the chest, abdomen, or bones for no known reason
• Swelling in the face and arms
The symptoms of non-Hodgkins lymphoma may resemble other blood disorders or medical problems, such as influenza or other infections. In fact, many of these symptoms are more likely to be caused by something other than lymphoma. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.
Risk Factors of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma
Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn't mean that you will not get cancer. Some risk factors are out of your control, such as age or gender. However, you do have control over some risk factors, such as exposure to certain infections. People who think they may be at risk should discuss this with their doctor.
Risk factors for non-Hodgkins lymphoma include the following:
• Older age
• Male gender
• Immune system deficiency
• Autoimmune diseases
• Exposure to radiation
• Exposure to chemicals such as benzene and herbicides
• Infections with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis C virus, or human T-cell leukemia/lymphoma virus (HTLV-1)
• History of infectious mononucleosis (caused by an infection with the Epstein-Barr virus)
• Infection with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacterium, which has been identified as a cause of stomach ulcers
• Past treatment for Hodgkins lymphoma
Types of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphomas
There are many types of non-Hodgkins lymphomas. Some types spread more quickly than others. The type is determined by how the cancer cells look under a microscope. This determination is called the histology. The histologies for adult non-Hodgkins lymphoma are divided into 2 groups:
• Indolent lymphomas, which are slower growing and have fewer symptoms
• Aggressive lymphomas, which grow more quickly
Aggressive lymphomas are also seen more frequently in patients who are HIV-positive (AIDS-related lymphoma).
How is Non-Hodgkins lymphoma identified?
Tests that examine the body and lymph system are used to help detect (find) and diagnose adult non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
The following tests and procedures may be used:
• Physical exam and history
• Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy
Tests conducted if Non-Hodgkins lymphoma is found
If cancer is found, the following tests may be done to study the cancer cells:
• Immunohistochemistry study
Tests and procedures that may be used in the staging process for Non-Hodgkins lymphoma
The following tests and procedures may be used in the staging process for non-Hodgkins lymphoma:
• Complete blood count (CBC)
• Blood chemistry studies
• PET scan (positron emission tomography scan)
• MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
• Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy
Treatment Options for Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma
Non-Hodgkins lymphoma can be treated. Treatment may control or cure the lymphoma. It can also improve your quality of life by controlling symptoms of the disease.
The goal of non-Hodgkins lymphoma treatment is to do one or more of these things.
• Kill the lymphoma cells as quickly as possible
• Stop the growth of new lymphoma cells
• Treat side effects of the lymphoma, such as pain, fevers, chills and night sweats
• Maintain a sense of control over your treatment choices and life
• Bone marrow transplantation