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Lymphoma

What is lymphoma?

  • Lymphoma refers to a cancer of the lymphatic system which is a specialized network of nodes (knots of tissue) connected by vessels that forms a part of the circulatory system.
  • The lymphatic system’s largest organ is the spleen and together, they drain fluid, the lymph, from all the organs and structures of your body back to the heart.
  • The lymph nodes act as filters, straining out invading organisms and cancerous cells.
  • Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell that attacks infectious invaders, such as bacteria, viruses and fungi, to destroy infections before they can enter the bloodstream.
  • Lymphoma occurs when specialized cells in the lymph-node or the lymphocytes begin to multiply in an uncontrollable manner, producing cancerous cells that expand and invade other tissues throughout your body.
  • The two main types of lymphoma are Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), which are classified using a specialized laboratory technique known as immunophenotyping, to characterize unique features of the cancer cells. This is important because it allows the clinician to select the treatment that is likely to induce the best response for that specific type of NHL.

Signs and symptoms:

  • Lymphoma is normally a painless condition and early in the course of the disease patients may have no symptoms. 
  • However, as the disease progresses non-specific symptoms such as unintended weight loss, fever, night sweats and itching may develop.
  • Patients commonly present with a swelling in the neck, under the arm or in the groin.

Diagnosis and management:

  • Treatment requires biopsy of one of the enlarged lymph nodes and a bone marrow biopsy to confirm the type and extent of lymphoma.
  • Specialized radiology imaging is used to evaluate the extent of spread or stage of the disease.
  • The treatment and outcomes of lymphoma have been transformed in recent years by the introduction of novel agents and antibody therapy.
  • The treatment of lymphoma is usually very successful and many people are cured of their disease.

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