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What is Lymphoma?

Lymphoma is a malignancy that originates from lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that plays a crucial role in boosting the body’s immune system. The cancer is highly aggressive and progresses at a very fast pace. It can metastasize throughout the patient’s body and spread to the liver, bone marrow and lungs. Though the condition can affect people of any age group, the risks are considerably higher for children lying in the age group of 15 to 24. Lymphoma is broadly classified into two types – Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma – It is the most common type of lymphoma, accounting for nearly 95 per cent of the cases. It involves the B and T lymphocytes present in the lymph nodes and tissues

Hodgkin’s lymphoma – Identified by the presence of abnormal B lymphocytes, also referred to as Reed-Sternberg cells, Hodgkin’s lymphoma involves all the lymph nodes.

What are the symptoms that you need to look out for?

The symptoms of lymphoma resemble those of a viral infection and some people might not experience any symptom at all. Some of the common symptoms that you need to look out for include:

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Persistent fever
  • Night sweats and chills
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Itching
  • General body weakness and fatigue
  • Pain in the lymph nodes.

Patients suffering from Non-Hodgkin lymphoma may also experience symptoms like

  • Coughing
  • Breathlessness
  • Abdominal pain and swelling

What causes Lymphoma?

Lymphoma is a result of undesired changes in the DNA of the lymphocytes, which may be triggered by a variety of reasons. These cells gradually replace all healthy cells.

What are the various risk factors associated with Lymphoma?

  • Age – Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is more common in people above 60 years of age whereas Hodgkin lymphoma is likely to affect people lying in the age group of 20 to 30 and also those above 55 years of age.
  • Sex – Women are more likely to have Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, whereas Hodgkin lymphoma is slightly more common in males.
  • Exposure to harmful chemicals and radiations – Exposure to harmful nuclear radiations and certain industrial chemicals can one more vulnerable to Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Immunodeficiency – The risks of lymphoma are escalated in people suffering from immunodeficiency
  • Autoimmune diseases – These occur when a patient’s immune system starts attacking the healthy cells, as in the case of rheumatoid arthritis
  • Infections – Certain infections like the Epstein-Barr virus and glandular fever can trigger cancerous mutations in the lymphocytes
  • Breast implants – Breast implants have been linked with the increased risks of non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Obesity – Being overweight or obese, again, is linked to the increased risks of developing the malignancy

Screening and diagnosis

  • Blood investigations – Blood tests help to detect the traces of lymphoma as well as determine its types.
  • Biopsy – It involves the collection of a sample of lymph tissue and examining it thoroughly for any traces of cancer
  • Imaging modalities – These include procedures like CT (computerized tomography) scan, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), PET (positron emission tomography) scan, X-ray imaging and ultrasound.
  • Spinal tap – The spinal fluid of the patient is collected under the influence of anaesthesia, using a long needle
    • Treatment

      Chemotherapy – It involves the intravenous or oral administration of certain drugs that target and kill the cancerous cells. A high dose of chemotherapy is given before a bone marrow transplant, to pave way for the growth of new, healthy cells.

      Radiation therapy – It involves the use of high-energy radiations to target and destroy cancerous cells. In some cases, the doctors may use protons instead of radiation beams.

      Bone marrow transplant – Also known as a stem cell transplant, the procedure aims at replacing diseased bone marrow with healthy stem cells.

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