Lymphoma

Overview

Lymphoma is cancer of the lymph tissue, which is part of your body’s immune system. It’s found in your lymph nodes, spleen, liver and bone marrow. The cancer begins in a type of disease-fighting white blood cell called a lymphocyte. Lymphoma causes normal lymphocytes to change into abnormal cancer cells and start to multiply, sometimes forming a mass (tumor). 

There are 2 major categories of lymphoma: Hodgkins lymphoma and non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Treatment and survival rates for lymphoma improve year after year. Most people diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma have an excellent prognosis.

Symptoms

Symptoms of lymphoma include:

  • Swollen lymph nodes in neck, under the arm or in the groin
  • Abdominal pain or swelling
  • Fevers or chills, including night sweats
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue

Diagnosis

If your doctor suspects you might have lymphoma, he or she will remove (biopsy) the tissue from any enlarged lymph node and screen it for cancer cells. Once you’re diagnosed, a complete blood count (CBC) can help determine how advanced your disease is. You may also need imaging tests, such as a CT (computed tomography) or PET (positron emission tomography) scan. 

A bone marrow test is a method your doctor may use to examine fluid and tissue in your marrow. This test helps to determine whether cancer is affecting your blood cells or marrow, as well as determine the extent of the disease. 

Treatment Options

Your doctor will discuss lymphoma treatment options that are right for you. Treatment may include:

Chemotherapy: These drugs, which interfere with cancer cells' ability to reproduce, are delivered either through an IV or in pill form.

Radiation therapy: This treatment uses high-energy rays to kill the lymphoma cells. 

Autologous bone marrow transplant/stem cell transplant: This procedure helps rebuild your bone marrow after chemotherapy. It may be recommended after an extremely high dose of chemo, which can kill off your healthy stem cells (immature blood cells) as well as the cancer cells. (“Autologous” means that the stem cells are your own, taken from your body before chemo/radiation and returned afterwards.)

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