Lymphoma is a type of cancer that begins in cells of the lymphatic system, which is a part of the body’s immune system. The lymphatic system includes lymph nodes, spleen, thymus, and bone marrow. Lymphomas are broadly classified into two main types: Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). These two types differ in the specific characteristics of the cancer cells and how they behave.
Key Facts about Lymphoma:
- Hodgkin Lymphoma (HL):
- Hodgkin lymphoma is characterized by the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells, which are large abnormal cells found in the affected lymph nodes. HL accounts for a smaller percentage of all lymphomas, and it often has a more predictable and favorable response to treatment.
- Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL):
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a diverse group of lymphomas that do not contain Reed-Sternberg cells. NHL is more common than HL and encompasses a wide range of subtypes, each with distinct characteristics and behaviors.
- Risk Factors:
- The exact cause of lymphoma is often unknown, but several factors may increase the risk, including age (most common in older adults), gender (HL is more common in young adults, NHL has no gender preference), impaired immune system, infections (such as Epstein-Barr virus or Helicobacter pylori), certain autoimmune diseases, and family history.
- Symptoms of lymphoma may include painless swelling of lymph nodes, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, night sweats, fever, itching, and pain or fullness below the ribs (enlarged spleen). The specific symptoms depend on the type and stage of lymphoma.
- Diagnosing lymphoma involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, imaging studies (CT scans, PET scans), blood tests, and biopsy of affected lymph nodes or other tissues. The biopsy helps determine the type of lymphoma and its characteristics.
- Staging helps determine the extent of the lymphoma and guides treatment decisions. Staging takes into account factors such as the number and location of affected lymph nodes, involvement of other organs, and the presence of symptoms.
- Treatment for lymphoma depends on the type, subtype, stage, and other factors. Common treatment modalities include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, and stem cell transplantation. The specific treatment plan is individualized based on the patient’s age, overall health, and characteristics of the lymphoma.
- The prognosis for lymphoma varies based on factors such as the type of lymphoma, stage at diagnosis, and response to treatment. Many patients with lymphoma respond well to treatment, and some subtypes have high cure rates.
- Follow-up Care:
- Patients who have undergone treatment for lymphoma often require long-term follow-up care to monitor for potential complications, assess treatment response, and address any late effects of treatment.
Advances in understanding the biology of lymphoma and the development of targeted therapies have improved outcomes for many individuals with the disease. Early detection, prompt medical intervention, and access to specialized lymphoma care contribute to improved prognosis and quality of life.