Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

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Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is cancer originating from the lymphatic system of the human body. The lymphatic system fights the infections and spreads across our entire body. In this disease, the tumors develop from a type of white blood cells called lymphocytes. It is one of the two general types of lymphoma and is more common than Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. A type of abnormal cells called Reed-Sternberg cells help to differentiate between the two types of Lymphoma. These cells are only present in Hodgkin’s Lymphoma while they are absent in Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The treatment of the disease varies from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Types of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

There are various types of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. They are:

  • B-cell Lymphoma – Reports suggest that around 85% of cases of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma are that of B-cell Lymphoma. Diffuse, large B-cell Lymphoma is the most common type of B-cell Lymphoma. Other types of B-cell Lymphoma are Burkitt’s Lymphoma, lymphoplasmacytic mantle cell lymphoma, marginal zone B-cell lymphoma, extranodal marginal zone B-cell lymphoma, small lymphocytic lymphoma, mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma.
  • T-cell Lymphoma – It affects around 15% of the population. It is of two types that comprise T-cells. They are peripheral T-cell lymphoma and cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.
  • Follicular Lymphoma – It is a rare type of B-cell Lymphoma.

Causes of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

While some doctors are unaware of the causes of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, some reports suggest that the weakened immune system causes this cancer. The body produces many abnormal lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) that cause cancer. The lymphocytes do not undergo the normal cycle in the patient suffering from Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The lymphocytes, instead of dying, grow and multiply in Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. These abnormal lymphocytes crowd the lymph nodes of the patient, and this causes the lymph nodes to swell.

  • B-cells: Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma can begin in the B-cells. B-cells produce antibodies to fight germs and infections. These antibodies act against foreign bodies to protect the body. In most cases, cancer arises from B-cells.
  • T-cells: T-cells kill the foreign bodies instantly and inhibit them from invading. Only a few cases of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma occur in T-cells.

Symptoms of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

One may find some symptoms that associate with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. These symptoms are:

  • Persistent fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Swollen lymph nodes present in the neck, armpit, and groin region
  • Fever
  • Chest pain
  • Night sweats
  • Abdominal pain
  • Breathlessness and coughing
  • Abdominal swelling

Diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Although your symptoms indicate the presence of abnormal lymphocytes in your body, your doctor might need to perform some tests to form an accurate diagnosis and confirm the disease. Your doctor will ask about the medical history of your family & you and may also take down your personal history. Some tests and procedures follow the history-taking to diagnose Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

  • Physical inspection: Your doctor will check for the swelling in your lymph nodes present in your neck, underarms, and groin. He/she might also check for swelling in the spleen and/or liver.
  • Urine tests and blood tests: Your doctor might ask you to collect and submit your urine and blood samples for tests. Testing of blood and urine rules out the presence or absence of an infection in the body.
  • Imaging scans: You might need to undergo imaging scans to detect the presence of tumors in your body. The various imaging tests are computed tomography (CT), X-ray, Positron Emission Tomography (PET), and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).
  • Bone marrow tests: Doctors carry out the bone marrow test through procedures called biopsy and aspiration. The aspiration and biopsy procedure require the insertion of the needle into your hipbone. The doctor removes a sample of bone marrow through the aspiration procedure. The pathologist carries out a biopsy procedure of the sample and analyzes to detect the presence of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma cells.
  • Testing of the lymph nodes: For the testing of the lymph nodes, the doctor will remove a portion of or an entire lymph node for laboratory testing. This lymph node biopsy procedure helps to analyze the lymph node tissue in the laboratory to reveal the presence of the tumor cells of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The biopsy procedure is one of the crucial tests for confirming the presence of the abnormal lymphocyte cells characteristic of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Treatment options for Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

There are various treatment options for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. You may decide which treatment you want to undergo and what your doctor recommends. However, the stage of the disease and your health play a vital role in deciding the most viable treatment option for you. If the growth of the tumor in your body is slow, then you may wait a while to observe the growth pattern. The symptoms of the lymphomas with slow growth do not appear instantly and don’t require treatment for some years. Your doctor might schedule checkups regularly for the monitoring of your condition and to ensure that your cancer isn’t progressing.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is one of the most commonly used treatment to kill cancer cells. It is drug treatment in which your doctor administers the drug orally or through injections. He/she will administer the drug alone or might also give it in combination with other drugs or other types of treatments. There are side effects of chemotherapy that depend on the type of drugs administered to you. Hair loss and nausea are the common side effects of chemotherapy. They may also cause serious long-term complications like fertility problems, heart damage, leukemia, and lung damage.

Radiotherapy

Your doctor might also treat you through radiotherapy that requires the use of high-powered energy beams to kill the cancerous cells. Radiotherapy treats the affected lymph nodes and the surrounding area where the disease might advance. The length of your radiotherapy depends on the severity and stage of the disease. The side effects of the treatment include hair loss and skin redness. Serious complications include heart disease and thyroid problems.

Bone marrow transplant

The treatment combines chemotherapy and radiation to suppress the infected bone marrow in your body. The doctor infuses healthy bone marrow cells from a donor in your body so that healthy bone marrow rebuilds.

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