Every year, the 15th of September is dedicated to raising awareness for one of the most common causes of cancer for children and teenagers – lymphoma.
While we may have heard of it, not many of us really know what lymphoma is, or that it is the 11th most common cancer in Europe, with over 90,000 cases diagnosed each year. (Cancer Research UK).
Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymph nodes and the lymphatic system and begins in a subset of white blood cells called lymphocytes, affecting the immune system and its ability to fight infection and disease.
Lymphoma has two main types – Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin. The main difference between the two consists in the presence of a certain type of cells, called Reed-Sternberg, found in Hodgkin lymphoma cases. As Lymphoma Coalition states, there are over 1,000,000 people around the world living with lymphoma, but a big part of them don’t know their subtype, which is the first step to finding the best treatment options.
Although lymphoma causes are yet to be discovered, there are some common risk factors that can help understand the disease. These include age, most lymphoma cases affect people before 20 or after 55 years old, or sex, Hodgkin lymphoma being more common in men.
Moreover, immunodeficiency is another important risk factor – lymphoma is more common in individuals with a weak immune system, due to HIV or AIDS, for example.
Symptoms of lymphoma
Being an illness that affects the immune system, lymphoma manifests the same as a persistent common cold who never seems to go away. The symptoms may also include swelling of the lymph nodes that can press on organs, bones or other structures, which can be easily confused with a simple back pain.
However, there are some other symptomes that may be caused by lymphoma, which include:
Lymphoma can easily spread to other body parts, too, due to the connection between the lymphatic tissue and other tissues and organs. Most often, the disease can spread to the liver, bone marrow or lungs.
Diagnosis of lymphoma
Although there are no special screenings and tests recommeded for Hodgkin or non-Hodgkin lymphoma, there are ways to early detect lymphoma and assure the most efficient treatment. Paying attention to the symptoms we mentioned about is a good way of detecting lymphoma during the early stage.
You should see a doctor as soon as you notice some symptoms take longer to heal. Once the doctor rules out other conditions that might cause the symptoms, after a medical history check and physical exam, a biopsy and blood tests might be needed to confirm a possible diagnose.
The type of biopsy used is decided by the doctor, based on the pacient’s situation.
Imaging tests such as CT, MRI scans and X-ray imaging can also be used to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment of lymphoma
While there is no sure way of preventing lymphoma, when treated during the early stage, more than 2 out of 3 people survive the non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
For Hodgkin lymphoma cases diagnosed before the first stage, the survival rate is of 85%, says Medical News Today.
The most common treatments include: biologic therapy, antibody therapy, chemotherapy, radioimmunotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery or stem-cell transplant.
This month, help your loved ones understand lymphoma and its symptoms, and support them into seeking medical help in case they might ever suspect a diagnose.