What is lymphoma?


Know the basics

What is lymphoma?

Lymphoma refers to a kind of cancer that starts in infection-fighting cells of the immune system, which is called lymphocytes, including lymph nodes, spleen, thymus, bone marrow, and other parts of the body. To be more specific, it is a condition of the lymphatic system that is supposed to be the network of fighting disease in your body. Having lymphoma means that lymphocytes change and grow out of control.

Lymphoma consists of many types, but the two main categories of lymphoma are Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

How common is lymphoma?

This health condition is not common but it can affect the older and male more than other people. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of lymphoma?

The common signs and symptoms of lymphoma are:

  • Swollen glands, often in the neck, armpit, or groin;
  • Cough, shortness of breath;
  • Fever, itching;
  • Night sweats;
  • Stomach pain, back or bone pain;
  • Fatigues, lack of energy;
  • Weight loss;
  • Chills;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Lymphedema;
  • Neuropathy;
  • Blood in the stool or vomit;
  • Blockage of urine flow;
  • Headaches;
  • Seizures.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • You have swelling in the neck, armpit, or groin, or unexplained swelling in an arm or leg.
  • If fevers, chills, unexplained weight loss, night sweats, lack of energy and itching persist for more than a few days.

Know the causes

What causes lymphoma?

Lymphoma is one of the cancers that the cause is still unknown, even it is the fact that it is more likely to occur in certain people.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for lymphoma?

There are many risk factors for lymphoma, such as:

  • If you are in your 60s or older;
  • If you are male;
  • If your immune system is weak from HIV/AIDS, an organ transplant, or because you were born with an immune disease;
  • If you have an immune system disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren’s syndrome, lupus, or celiac disease;
  • If you have been infected with a virus such as Epstein-Barr, hepatitis C, human T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (HTLV-1), or human herpesvirus 8 (HHV8);
  • If you have a close relative who had lymphoma;
  • If you were exposed to benzene or chemicals that kill bugs and weeds;
  • If you were treated for Hodgkin or non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the past;
  • If you were treated for cancer with radiation;
  • If you are overweight.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is lymphoma diagnosed?

To diagnose your lymphoma, you doctor may ask you answer some questions about your feeling, the time you first notice changes, if and where you have pain, your appetite, if you have lose weight, if you feel tired or weak, if you have ever been treated for lymphoma or another cancer, any infections or illnesses you used to have, if any cancers run in your family.

Then, your doctor can check your signs of lymphoma and feel for swollen lymph nodes. If you have this symptom, it doesn’t mean that you have cancer. You can have an infection which is unrelated to cancer causes swollen lymph nodes.

To check for cancer cells, a lymph node biopsy is required. For this test, your doctor can be able to remove all or part of a lymph node, or use a needle to take a small amount of tissue from the affected node.

In case your doctor wishes to know how far the lymphoma has spread, you can be asked to have blood test to check the number of certain cells in your blood, bone marrow aspiration or biopsy to look for lymphoma cells, chest X-ray – which uses radiation in low doses – to make images of the inside of your chest, MRI with powerful magnets and radio waves to make pictures of organs and structures inside your body, or PET scan associated with radioactive substance to look for cancer cells in your body.

A molecular test can be also ordered to help your doctor know if you have any changes to genes, proteins, and other substances in cancer cells so that they can determine which type of lymphoma you have.

How is lymphoma treated?

Based on the type of lymphoma you have and how far it has spread, your doctor can choose the treatment for you.

If you are diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, you can be recommend to choose chemotherapy, which means that you have to use drugs to kill cancer cells; radiation therapy which uses high-energy rays to eliminate cancer cells; immunotherapy with uses of your body’s own immune system to attack cancer cells.

In case you are having Hodgkin lymphoma, your treatment can be chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Even such treatments can’t help you with the disease, a stem cell transplant can be ordered. The first step is that you are given very high doses of chemotherapy to destroy cancer cells. The side effect of this is that it also kills stem cells in your bone marrow that make new blood cells. The next step is that you have to get a transplant of stem cells to replace the ones that were destroyed.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage lymphoma?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with lymphoma:

  • You should change your diet which is fit to your condition after discussing with your doctor;
  • You should do exercise that can help you feel better during your treatment, like walking or swimming;
  • You might also try alternative therapies like relaxation, biofeedback, or guided imagery to relieve pain.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

msBahasa Malaysia

Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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