Lymphatic system is a part of the vascular system and an integral part of the immune system. It consists of a network of lymphatic vessels that carry a clear fluid to the heart. This fluid is known as lymph. As the name signifies, Lymphoma is the cancer of the lymphatic system and lymph nodes and affects white blood cells which are also known as lymphocytes. The cancer cells can metastasize and spread to other parts of the body as well.
Lymphomas are neoplasms of the lymphatic tissues. They are the tumors of the lymphoid tissues. The malignant neoplasms (cancer of the lymphocyte) develop in white blood cells that belong to the lymph as well as blood. Lymphomas and another disease lymphoid leukemia are very closely related and sometimes they are a unitary disease in a human body and get called interchangeably.
There are two broad types of Lymphoma cancer – Hodgkin and Non Hodgkin. When an individual is suffering from Hodgkin lymphoma, a specific cell known as Reed-Sternberg cell is present. Non Hodgkin is more common out of the two and affects the B and T cells. It accounts for about ninety percent of the whole of the Lymphoma cancer cases. Both these broad have different subtypes as well.
The symptoms are similar to common viral fever but the difference is in the duration of these symptoms. When the symptoms are persistent, then doctors advise screening for cancer. Some of the common symptoms are:
In some cases there are none of the above symptoms at all, rather just swelling of lymph nodes that are spread in the entire body like in the neck, armpits, abdomen and groin. These enlarged lymph nodes might not be painful on their own but might cause pain if they get pressed against bones or any organ of the body.
Lymphoma can rapidly spread to other parts of the body from lymph nodes through the lymphatic system thus weakening body’s infection-fighting ability. The lymphatic tissues are spread across the body and cancer cells spread easily through these tissues to other organs of the body. Lungs, bone marrow and liver are the most commonly affected organs.
Cancer can develop if there is uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells that thrive instead of dying as per their cycle. If a person is suffering from Hodgkin lymphoma, the spread of cancer is from one lymph node to another. In non Hodgkin lymphoma, tumors get formed disparately across the lymph nodes, skipping several lymph nodes in between.
If there is persistent flu and viral fever, then doctor does screening for lymphoma. They take account of family medical history and carry out physical examination of chin, neck, armpits, abdomen, and groin to see whether there is suspicious swelling. Signs of infection and swelling are particularly watched near the lymph nodes.
Staging is done on scales of 0-IV depending upon cellular characteristics, growth rate and type of cancer. Stage IV is the most advanced stage and signifies spreading of lymphoma cancer to distant organs.
When one is suffering from low grade lymphomas, the disease remains indolent for many years. Watchful waiting is the initial course of action. People of low grade lymphomas have a nearly normal lifespan. High grade lymphomas are more aggressive in nature and hence require aggressive treatment. Even after treatment, there can be relapse which should be treated with even more aggressiveness.
The type and stage of cancer determines the treatment option. Either one or a combination of following treatments is advised to patients depending upon their individual conditions:
Though Lymphoma cancer can develop across all age groups, it is most commonly found in children and individuals up to twenty- four years of age and is a treatable disease. 2 in 3 people suffering from stage I Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma cancer survive for at least five years after diagnosis. The earlier medical care is provided, the more are chances of success in treatment. Hence unusual signs should be taken seriously instead of ignoring.
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