Key Points about B-Cell Lymphoma
- B-cell lymphoma is the most common type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), comprising 85 percent of the cases of NHL.
- Doctors use imaging tests, biopsy, blood tests and physical exams to diagnose this type of cancer.
- Treatment for B-cell lymphoma may include chemotherapy, targeted therapy, stem cell transplant, immunotherapy and/or radiation therapy.
B-cell lymphomas are a common type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL); B-cell lymphomas make up 85 percent of cases of NHL. B-cell lymphomas are a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system, which is part of your immune system. This condition causes white blood cells called lymphocytes to grow out of control.
B-cell lymphoma causes
B-cell lymphoma is caused when the body produces excessive amounts of lymphocytes.
B-cell lymphoma risk factors
Factors that may increase your risk for developing B-cell lymphoma:
- Being exposed to certain chemicals, such as pesticides and insecticides
- Being older, especially over age 60
- Having certain infections, such as Epstein-Barr infection
- Having certain viruses, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Having the bacteria Helicobacter pylori
- Taking certain medications that suppress your immune system
B-cell lymphoma symptoms
Signs and symptoms of B-cell lymphoma may include:
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Night sweats
- Pain or swelling in the abdomen
- Persistent fatigue
- Swollen lymph nodes in the armpits, neck or groin
- Unintentional weight loss
B-cell lymphoma diagnosis
Your oncologist may use one or more of the following tests to diagnose this condition:
- Physical exam – your doctor will perform a complete physical exam, including asking questions about your health history, symptoms and related risk factors. Your doctor will check your lymph nodes for swelling.
- Blood tests – your doctor will send a sample of your blood to the laboratory for close analysis. The lab can analyze your blood sample to rule out any infections or another disease that could have similar symptoms.
- Bone marrow biopsy – in this test, your doctor removes a biopsy (small tissue sample) from your bone marrow (spongy material inside the bones). This sample is sent to the laboratory, where a specialist closely checks the biopsy for lymphoma cells.
- Imaging tests – your doctor may order imaging tests – such as X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computerized tomography (CT) scan or positron emission tomography (PET) scan – to look for lymphoma cells in your body.
- Lymph node biopsy – in this test, your doctor removes a biopsy (small tissue sample) from your lymph node. This sample is sent to the laboratory, where a specialist closely checks the biopsy for lymphoma cells.
- Urine tests – your doctor will send a sample of your urine to the laboratory for close analysis. The lab can analyze your urine sample to rule out any infections or another disease that could have similar symptoms.
B-cell lymphoma treatments
Depending on your personal health history, the extent of the cancer and other factors, your oncologist may recommend one or more of the following treatment options:
- Watchful waiting – if you are not experiencing any symptoms related to your B-cell lymphoma, you may not need to undergo treatment right away. In this case, you will see your specialist for regular visits and testing to monitor the condition.
- Bone marrow transplant – also known as a stem cell transplant, this treatment involves infusing your diseased bone marrow with healthy bone marrow. Doing so can help your body fight the cancer.
- Chemotherapy – during this treatment, medication is used to destroy cancerous cells. Chemotherapy can be taken via an oral (by mouth) pill or intravenously (through a vein).
- Immunotherapy – this treatment uses your body’s immune system to fight the cancerous cells.
- Radiation therapy – this treatment uses high-powered energy beams to destroy cancerous cells.
- Targeted therapy – specialized medications kill cancerous blood cells, and targeted therapy may help preserve more surrounding healthy tissue than other treatment options.
When should I seek care?
If you experience any of these symptoms, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. Your doctor may suggest seeing an oncologist for more specialized treatment.