Lymphoma the umbrella term for a range of different related cancers of the immune system. Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the lymphocyte cells, and which can quickly move between different areas of the body due to the fact that these cells travel via the lymph system and through the lymph nodes and lymphatic tissue. There are two major categories of lymphoma cancer: Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. While these two types of lymphoma cancer tend to be quite similar in that they are found in the same areas of the body, and cause the same symptoms, they are easily able to be distinguished when examined microscopically.
Lymphoma cancer is common in western countries, and is the most commonly diagnosed blood cancer in countries such as the United States. It occurs both in adults and in children, in which it is one of the most common types of cancers. Of the two types of cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is by far the most commonly occurring type of lymphoma cancer. Treatment is most typically chemotherapy or radiation therapy, with radiation therapy often used for Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer in instances where the cancer has not yet spread. Where the lymphoma has not yet become symptomatic, a process called “watchful waiting” is used to assess whether the lymphoma will become cancerous.
There are a range of different symptoms of lymphoma cancer experienced by lymphoma cancer sufferers. These include enlarged lymph nodes or enlargement of tissues related to the lymph system elsewhere on the body; an enlarged spleen; feverishness and chills, including night sweats; and unexplained weight loss and lack of energy. Note that these symptoms are nonspecific and may be related to many other conditions. However, if they persist they should be investigated.
While some risk factors for lymphoma have been outlined, many of these are correlative rather than causal. These factors include age, with older people more likely to develop lymphoma; infection with viruses such as HIV, hepatitis, or the Epstein-Barr virus; diseases or treatments resulting in a suppressed immune system, and exposure to particular chemicals. As with many types of cancer, a suppressed immune system is a risk factor, and as such it’s essential that cancer patients or survivors make every effort to help support their immune system in order to effect improved outcomes against cancer. Alternative treatments may be beneficial as a means to do so, and in some individuals have been associated with improved quality of life and potentially with lower levels of cancer recurrences.