Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer that affects lymphocytes, the white blood cells that form part of the immune system that helps fight infections.
In lymphoma, either the B lymphocytes (B-cells) or T lymphocytes (T-cells) undergo a harmful change and grow out of control. These abnormal lymphocytes crowd out the healthy cells, affecting the normal functioning of the immune system.
The main types of lymphoma are Hodgkin's lymphoma (common in young adults who are 15 – 30 years old and adults over 50) and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (more common in older people).
Several types of Hodgkin's lymphoma exist, which may include rarer forms that are difficult to identify. The subtypes of lymphoma include:
In developing a treatment plan, accurate diagnosis and staging is important in shaping a treatment plan. The general stages of lymphoma are:
This is a heterogeneous group of malignancies of the lymphoid system. The most common non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is the diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.
The staging of the non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is similar to Hodgkin's lymphoma.
While the signs and symptoms of lymphoma may not be easily noticeable, some common ones include:
While the exact cause of lymphoma is unknown, some risk factors may increase the chances of developing it.
Risk factors for lymphoma may include:
Lymphoma and its treatments can cause some complications and diseases, including:
Lymphoma can weaken your immune system. With a weak immune system, you are at a higher risk of having infections. To prevent serious complications, talk to your doctor if you experience symptoms of an infection such as fever, headache, muscle pains, diarrhoea, fatigue, and painful blistering rashes.
Treatments of lymphoma such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy can lead to heart complications. Doxorubicin, the drug used in chemotherapy, can cause the heart muscle to weaken. Radiation therapy can also damage the heart. These treatments increase your risk of developing congestive heart failure, heart attack, and stroke.
Lymphoma treatments can increase your risk of developing respiratory complications. For instance, radiotherapy and a chemotherapy drug called bleomycin can lead to scarring of the lungs.
Treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy can cause temporary and permanent infertility. If you still plan to have a baby in the future, ask your doctor about your options. For men, the option can include storing samples of sperm. Women, on the other hand, can opt to store eggs before undergoing lymphoma treatments.