Lymphoma is a type of tumor that starts in white blood cells called lymphocytes, and when it is not cancerous, it is called benign lymphoma, pseudolymphoma, or benign lymphoid hyperplasia (BLH). Benign lymphoma has symptoms that are similar to cancerous lymphomas, but it does not represent the same risk to patients’ lives and is more easily treated. Cases of death due to benign lymphoma are rare, but if not properly treated, the tumor may grow and cause discomfort as it presses on the tissue.
Lymphocytes, a type of white blood cells, are an important element of the immune system that are responsible for protecting the body against infections. Lymphoma develops when the lymphocytes start to grow and reproduce abnormally rather than dying naturally to give space for new cells. The first signs of lymphoma, benign or malignant, are usually swollen lymph nodes. Since the symptoms associated with the two types of lymphomas are similar and they look similar under a microscope, the diagnosis can be difficult.
Benign Lymphoma Development and Risk Factors
Benign tumors are lumps or growths that may appear in many parts of body. In the case of benign lymphoma, the most usual site is the lymph nodes, but it can also develop in the skin, lungs, liver, eyes, gastrointestinal tract, soft tissues, or other sites. This type of lymphoma is often indolent, which means slow-growing, and tends not to expand to the nearby tissue or other body parts, while it usually mimics the clinical actions and appearance of malignant lymphomas.
The reasons for the development of a benign lymphoma are not completely understood, but it is thought that it may be related to environmental toxins like radiation exposure, genetics, certain dietary habits, stress, local trauma or injuries, and inflammation or infections. Also, the possibility of drug-induced benign lymphomas has recently gained the attention of scientists.
Benign Lymphoma Symptoms and Diagnosis
Benign and malignant lymphomas share the same symptoms, which can be difficult to diagnose correctly. The first symptom is generally painless, swollen lymph nodes, particularly in the neck, chest, and abdomen. Other symptoms including night sweats, fever, chest pain, unexplained weight loss, lack of energy or fatigues, rashes, and lower back pain. A proper diagnosis is key to defining the correct treatment for the disease.
Therefore, physicians usually conduct a series of exams to confirm the diagnosis and ensure the lymphoma is benign and not malignant. A complete physical exam and a biopsy are the first and most common tests ordered to diagnose the disease, but blood and imaging tests may also be required.
Prevalence and Treatment of Benign Lymphoma
About one in every 2,000 people worldwide suffer from benign lymphomas and they are rarely life threatening, which means that watchful waiting may be a treatment option when cases are not severe. However, it may cause problems when the swollen lymph nodes start to press on the tissue, and in more severe cases, it can evolve into a malignant lymphoma.
This is why treating the benign lymphoma is a more common decision rather than waiting and watching. Patients often undergo surgery to remove the tumor without damaging the surrounding tissue. Medication and radiation therapy may also be recommended in some cases.
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