Lymphoma

Introduction

Lymphoma is a form of cancer that afflicts the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system consists of a network of ducts and organs, which provides immunity for the body and helps in ridding it of infections and toxic substances. Organs like the spleen and lymph nodes produce fluid called lymph, and when an abnormal production of lymph occurs, it may accumulate in certain areas, hence compromising the natural defense mechanism of the body. This can lead to lymphoma.

Lymphoma can be present both in humans and animals. Lymphoma is a type of cancer that originates in the lymphocytes (a type of white blood cells in the vertebrate immune system).

Lymphoma is a complex disease. Just as the cancer represents many different diseases, lymphoma also represents many different diseases or a combination of diseases. As stated earlier, lymphoma is a disease that causes damage to the cells, which have a role to play in the immune system of the body, and especially affects cells involved in the lymphatic system of the body. As in all other types of cancer these cells are affected according to the stage of the cancer and hence the condition of the patient will be dependent on the stage of the cancer affecting the cells.

Lymphoma Causes

How many people are diagnosed with this disease per year? As of 2007, there are about 71,000 new cases of lymphoma in the United States alone. Every year, an estimated 19,000 deaths are related to lymphoma. The most common cause of death for this condition is non-Hodgkin lymphoma, followed by Hodgkin lymphoma. These two conditions can be differentiated via microscopic observation of lymph cells.

The exact and perfect causes of the lymphoma are unknown and the affects that are caused by the factors proposed are still vague. Some factors however, have been thought to be behind the development of the lymphoma and it is said that the presence of these factors may lead to the increased risk of developing lymphoma. It is still unclear what role they play in the actual development of lymphoma. These factors may include the following:

• Age
• Infections; getting infected with different viruses, for instance, HIV etc. may cause the development of lymphoma
• Medical conditions that compromise the immune system
• Exposure to toxic chemicals
• Genetic: family history of lymphoma

There are persons who are more susceptible to lymphoma than others. Data from the American Cancer Association explains that persons who are candidates for organ transplants are possible victims of lymphoma. Because they take immune suppressants to avoid organ rejection, this affects the lymphatic system. Lymphoma can also be caused by viral agents, as well as determined to be hereditary. Occupational hazards like chemical exposure, solvents, pesticides, herbicides, benzene, are also contributive to the condition. People with other existing autoimmune diseases, such as HIV are at risk for lymphoma as well.

Lymphoma Symptoms

The symptoms of lymphoma may vary from patient to patient. But they will show up in the form of painless swelling on the lymph nodes, such as in the neck (tonsils), under an arm or in the groin. As discussed before lymphoma is a disease which affects the cells in the lymph and thus starts dwelling in the lymph. Since it is a disease of the immune system, as person becomes infected or sick more easily than usual. Often, recovery time is too long. Symptoms of lymphoma may include the following:

• Fevers
• Chills
• Unexplained weight loss
• Night sweats
• Lack of energy
• Itching

These symptoms are nonspecific which means that these can be caused by any number of conditions, other than the cancer. This is a big hindrance in the detection of lymphoma because without any specific symptoms it is not easy to understand the root of the problem because all of the above-discussed things can be caused by many other reasons, which may not be life threatening at all.

Lymphoma Treatment

If any of the above symptoms are recurrent in a patient, he or she should be brought to an oncologist for examination. Treatment of lymphoma depends on the position of the infection and the stage of the disease. Other factors such as the age and prior treatment of lymphoma are also included in the decision making process for the treatment of the lymphoma. The common treatments used to battle lymphoma are similar to that of other forms of cancer. Radiation, chemotherapy, and biological therapy help increase the survival rates of patients with lymphoma and other cancer types. Drugs like Campath and Rituxan have been known to be effective. Sometimes, radiation therapy is coupled with chemotherapy for better results. Some side effects of chemotherapy have been known to occur in many patients. The rate of survival of patients with lymphoma varies depending on when it is detected, and when treatments are first administered. If lymphoma is diagnosed and treated promptly and efficiently then it is more likely to be cured.
 

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