Lymphoma is a type of cancer that develops in the lymphatic system as a result of an abnormal function of a form of white blood cell called lymphocytes. While normal cells die, making space for new ones, cells affected by lymphoma tend to expand, which explains why one of the first signs of the disease are painless, swollen lymph nodes. The reasons for this mutation is not entirely understood, but there are different origins that impact diagnosis and treatment of the disease.
Lymphomas are generally classified as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which is the most common form, or Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The different types of lymphoma affect cells differently and impact different types of lymphocytes. There are also a series of subtypes of lymphomas that grow at a specific pace and respond in a different manner to lymphoma treatment.
Characteristics of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
Lymphocytes are an important part of the human immune system, protecting the body against germs. The main difference between non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma is in the specific type of cells involved in each of the diseases. To determine the type of cancer, patients’ cells are analyzed under a microscope. In cases when Reed-Sternberg cells are detected, the disease is diagnosed as Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma does not involve Reed-Sternberg cells, which are large, multinucleated cells with a unique morphology and immunophenotype, and are different than other normal cells in the body.
There are about of 61 subtypes of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and it is important for physicians to determine the exact type of cancer in order to design an accurate treatment plan.
Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Diagnosis
Diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma may not be easy, since the first symptoms are similar to other conditions. In addition to swollen lymph nodes, other signs include night sweats; chills or fevers; unexpected weight loss; loss of appetite; lack of energy or tiredness; itching or rash; coughing; difficulties in breathing; enlarged tonsils; or headaches. To determine a diagnosis, a medical team will conduct a series of exams.
A complete physical exam is one of the first steps, particularly designed to search for swollen lymph or fluid that are not detected above the skin, while the physician will also inquire patients about eventual pain, fatigue, or paralysis, which may indicate that the disease is in a more advanced stage.
A biopsy, blood tests, and imaging tests are usually conducted to understand the type and extent of the disease, seek enlarged internal organs, and evaluate bone marrow damages.
Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Treatment
There are numerous types and combinations of lymphoma treatment, which are prescribed based on a series of factors. The stage of lymphoma, extent and type, as well as the patient’s age, gender, and medical history are the main conditions that impact the choice of treatment. The most usual therapies to treat non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas are radiation therapy, especially in early stage cases and to prevent possible complications, but also both curative and palliative chemotherapy, as well as biologic therapy.
Note: Lymphoma News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.