Key Points about Lymphoma
- Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system.
- Being male, over the age of 55, having a weakened immune system and having certain infections can increase your chances of developing lymphoma.
- Treatment for lymphoma may involve chemotherapy, radiation therapy or bone marrow therapy.
Lymphoma – or lymphatic cancer – affects the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is comprised of the lymph nodes, thymus gland and bone marrow. Lymphoma can affect all of those organs plus other areas in the body. There are a variety of types of lymphoma. The main sub-types are Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Though experts aren’t sure what causes lymphoma, they know that it begins when a lymphocyte (disease-fighting white blood cell) develops a gene mutation.
Lymphoma risk factors
Factors that may increase your risk for developing lymphoma are:
- Being male
- Being over age 55 (though some types of lymphoma are more common in younger people)
- Having a weakened immune system
- Having certain infections, such as the Epstein-Barr virus or Helicobacter pylori infection
Symptoms of lymphoma can include:
- Itchy skin
- Shortness of breath
- Sweating, especially at nighttime
- Swollen lymph nodes in your neck, armpits or groin
- Unintentional weight loss
Your specialist may recommend one or more of the following tests to diagnose lymphoma:
- Physical exam. Your doctor will perform a comprehensive physical exam to check for swelling in your lymph nodes, spleen or liver.
- Lymph node biopsy. Your doctor may remove a small tissue sample (biopsy) from a lymph node for closer analysis in the lab.
- Blood tests. Your doctor may order blood tests, which can check the number of cells in your blood to determine if you may have lymphoma.
- Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy. Your doctor may remove a small sample (biopsy) of your bone marrow for closer analysis in the lab.
- Imaging tests. Your doctor may order an imaging test – such as computerized tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or positron emission tomography (PET) scan – to check for signs of lymphoma.
Treatment for lung cancer may include one or more of the following options:
- Radiation therapy. This treatment uses high-energy beams – such as X-ray or protons – to destroy cancer cells. People typically have to undergo several rounds of radiation therapy treatment for results.
- Chemotherapy. This treatment involves using medications – either oral (by mouth) or intravenous (by vein) – to destroy cancer cells.
- Bone marrow transplant. Also known as a stem cell transplant, this involves infusing healthy stem cells into your blood to help your bones rebuild bone barrow. The stem cells may come from a donor or your own body.
When should I seek care?
If you experience any of these symptoms, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing an oncologist for more specialized treatment.