What Is It?
Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer that affects the immune system. It occurs when the white blood cells divide faster and live longer than usual. This causes a tumour to grow. Lymphoma can occur in any of the organs, in the lymph nodes, the spleen or even within bone marrow. Lymphoma is caused by changes in the DNA of white blood cells. However, it is currently unknown why this mutation occurs.
While there are a number of different types on lymphoma, lymphoma is usually broken down into two categories: Hodgkin Lymphoma (or Hodgkin’s disease) and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. The main difference between these two types of lymphoma is that there is Reed-Sternberg cells present in Hodgkin Lymphoma.
90% of lymphoma cases fall into the Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma category. This type of lymphoma tends to affect individuals who are more than 60 years old. Research reveals that those who have been exposed to radiation are especially at risk of getting Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.
Affecting only 10% of lymphoma patients, Hodgkin Lymphoma is the rarer of the two. Hodgkin Lymphoma affects two age bands, those who are 15 – 50 and those who are over 60. It has also been suggested that those who have had mononucleosis (mono) are more likely to get this type of cancer.
While there is a subtle but important distinction between Hodgkin and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, both cancers share a number symptoms. The most common symptoms of lymphoma include the following:
- Unexplained weight loss.
- Fever and severe night sweats.
- Swollen lymph nodes.
- Itchy skin all over the body.
- Weakened immune system: longer recovery form infections or more susceptible to infections.
- Feeling tired all the time.
In addition, there are a number of symptoms that are unique to Hodgkin Lymphoma:
- Feeling breathless.
- Ongoing cough.
- Pain in lymph glands when consuming alcohol.
Treatment varies according the health of the individual and the severity of the cancer. Nevertheless, there are three main treatment options available: chemotherapy, radiotherapy and stem cell replacement.
Chemotherapy is a type of treatment which uses chemicals to control and kill the lymphoma cells. Chemotherapy travels through your blood system which means that it can reach all the areas of the body which may be affected by lymphoma. Chemotherapy is either taken orally or intravenously.
As the name suggests, this type of treatment uses radiation to treat the cancer. This treatment works by the patient lying on a table and having high-energy beams directed at the affected areas and the surrounding areas where the lymphoma may spread to. This is often used after chemotherapy or to treat those with early stage lymphoma.
Stem Cell Transplant
If other treatments have proved unsuccessful, you may be recommended stem cell treatment. This type of treatment involves very high doses of radiation of chemotherapy. After the treatment, you will be injected with healthy stem cells to form new blood cells. Stem cells can either be taken from your body or from a donor.