What is Lymphoma Cancer?
What is Lymphoma Cancer? Lymphoma is a cancer that appears in the lymphatic system that connects the lymph glands or lymph nodes throughout the body. The lymphatic system is an important part of the human immune system.
White blood cells of lymphocytes in the lymphatic system will help the formation of antibodies to fight infection. But if B lymphocyte cells in the lymphatic system are attacked by cancer, the immune system will decrease and become susceptible to infection.
Types of Lymphoma
This cancer can be categorized into 2 types, namely Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The main difference lies in the type of lymphocyte cells that are attacked by cancer and can be known through examination under a microscope.
Lymphomas are classified in Hodgkin species whenever Reed-Sternberg abnormal cells are detected in the examination. While the lymphoma without abnormal cells is included in the category of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is more common than Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It is estimated that only about 20 percent of cases of lymphoma are Hodgkin’s.
Symptoms of Lymphoma
The main symptoms experienced by people with lymphoma is the growth of lumps. This lump does not hurt and generally appears on the neck, armpits, and groin.
In addition to the lump, there are a number of other symptoms that may be felt by people with lymphoma. Some of them are:
- Always feel tired.
- Sweating at night.
- Fever and chills.
- More frequent infections.
- Cough that does not heal or panting.
- Itching all over the body.
- Weight loss for no apparent reason.
- No appetite.
- Severe bleeding, such as menstruation with excessive blood volume or nosebleeds.
- Swelling of the abdomen.
- Stomach ache.
- Cough or respiratory disorders.
- Chest pain.
Consultation to a doctor should be done if someone finds these symptoms. Having a lump does not mean that a person must have lymphoma, but should continue to be tested as early as possible.
Causes and Lymphoma Risk Factors
Lymphoma occurs because of changes or mutations in the DNA of lymphocyte cells so that its growth becomes uncontrollable. The cause behind the mutation is not yet known for certain.
However, there are some things that may increase the risk of someone affected by Hodgkin’s lymphoma. These risk factors include:
- Age. Most Hodgkin’s lymphoma occurs in patients aged 15-30 years and the elderly are over 55 years old. While the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma will increase with age, especially elderly people aged over 60 years.
- Ever exposed to Epstein-Barr or EBV virus. This virus causes glandular fever. People who have had glandular fevers are at higher risk of Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
- Weak immune system, for example because of HIV / AIDS or immunosuppressant drugs.
- Heredity factor. A person’s risk for lymphoma increases if you have a nuclear family member (father, mother, or sibling) who suffer the same type of cancer.
- Obesity. Overweight factors are more influential in women than in men, in increasing the risk of lymphoma.
Diagnosis of lymphoma
The first step in determining the diagnosis, is through anamnesa to ask for symptoms of disease, history of previous illness and family history of disease, and through physical examination.
To confirm the diagnosis, an additional set of checks may be conducted which include:
- Blood and urine examination. Through this examination, the doctor will know the health condition of patients in general.
- Photo Rontgen, CT scan, MRI, and PET scan. This examination is used to see the extent of lymphoma spread.
- Biopsy to take a sample of swollen lymph nodes and bone marrow.
- Chest X-ray to check whether there is spread of lymphoma to the lungs or not.
Biopsies, X-rays, CT scans, MRI, and PET scans can also help in determining the stage as well as the rate of lymphoma development. Here is a brief explanation for the stages in the lymphoma.
- Stage 1 – cancer attacks one group of lymph nodes.
- Stage 2 – The cancer attacks 2 groups of lymph nodes or spreads to 1 organ around the lymph nodes, but is limited to the upper or lower body only, with the diaphragm as a limitation.
- Stage 3 – the cancer spreads to the lymph nodes in the upper and lower body parts, with the diaphragm as a constraint.
- Stage 4 – the cancer has spread through the lymphatic system and into various organs or bone marrow.
Treatment of Lymphoma
Treatment of lymphoma is not the same for every patient. The best way of handling is determined based on the health condition, age, type, and stage of the patient’s lymphoma.
Especially for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, not all cases require immediate medical treatment. If the cancer is suffering from a slow type of developing, the doctor may suggest to wait and see the progress first. There is even a small, early-stage non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that can be resolved through lifting procedures at the time of biopsy, so patients do not need further treatment.
The main step in the treatment of lymphoma is with chemotherapy that can be administered by infusion or in the form of a drug taken. This therapy can also be combined with:
- Steroid drugs.
- Biological therapy, for example rituximab medicine. This drug will attach itself to the cancer cells and stimulate the immune system to attack and kill it.
- Bone marrow transplant. This step is needed for people with lymphoma who suffered bone marrow damage due to high-dose chemotherapy.
As with other cancer treatments, lymphoma treatment also has side effects. Some of the side effects commonly experienced by patients include fatigue, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.
In addition, the decline in the immune system, the risk of infertility, and the potential for the emergence of other cancers can also be a complication of lymphoma as well as the side effects of its treatment. The risk of other diseases may also increase, for example heart disease, kidney, diabetes, or cataracts.
Make sure the patient performs regular health checks, during or after treatment. This step is done so that the health condition of patients and the possibility of cancer recurrence can be monitored.