Cancer developing from the cells (lymphocytes) of the lymphatic system is called as Lymphoma. Lymphatic system helps in the protection of the body from the infections and any other foreign material, thus having a very important role in the immune system of our body.
This disease of lymphoma, comes under the broad category of diseases called hematological neoplasms. It is the lymph nodes or the spleen where the lymphoma starts from. This can then spread to the other parts of the lymphatic system and the blood stream, moving onto any other part of the body as well.
Lymphoma is of many types. There are various ways of classifying Lymphomas. Most common classification divided lymphoma into two categories – Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Another form of classification is according to the WHO classification.
This classification is on the basis of the cell types causing lymphoma. These are classified in three major groups, namely B cell tumors, the T cell tumors and the natural killer cell tumors. According to these four disorders are mentioned – mature B cell neoplasms, mature T cell and natural killer (NK) cell neoplasms, Hodgkin lymphoma and an immunodeficiency-associated lymphoproliferative disorders.
Another method of classification is on the basis of the report published by the Working Formulation. This classifies lymphoma in two categories, namely – low grade lymphoma (malignant Lymphoma, small lymphocytic (chronic lymphocytic leukemia); Malignant Lymphoma, follicular, predominantly small cleaved cell; Malignant Lymphoma, follicular, mixed (small cleaved and large cell)) and High grade lymphoma (Malignant Lymphoma, large cell, immunoblastic; Malignant Lymphoma, lymphoblastic; Malignant Lymphoma, small non-cleaved cells (Burkitt's lymphoma)).
The symptoms which can be seen on the onset of non-Hodgkin’s and Hodgkin’s lymphoma are: painless swelling of lymph nodes in the neck, armpit or groin, fever or sweating, seen especially at night time, unexplained weight loss, poor appetite, tiredness, persistent itching and abdominal swelling or pain. Another chief symptom seen is the growing of pain in the lymph nodes after drinking alcohol and cough or breathlessness.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is the seventh most common form of lymphoma in men, while in women it comes to the sixth position in terms of commonness. Every year, 5000 new cases in men and 4500 new cases in women are found. This condition is usually diagnosed amongst people over the age of 50 years and is thus more commonly found in adults than youngsters.
Cases of lymphoma are found more in people who are prone to radiations exposure (for example, radiotherapy and nuclear accidents), regular chemical exposure (for example, to herbicides and insecticides) and reduced immunity. Old age also increases the risk of acquiring this disease, while some genetic diseases result in the abnormal immune system of the children born with lymphoma.
Strengthening the immune system, avoiding the regular exposure to the harmful chemicals and radioactive elements would help a great deal in reducing the risks of acquiring lymphoma. The whole body being a part of lymphoma, the patients suffering from immune disorders like in the case of HIV are at an extremely high risk of acquiring lymphoma. Certain drugs and medication also lead to the increased occurrence of lymphoma.
Usually it is seen that Hodgkin’s lymphoma can usually be treated and cured with success. The main treatments used for treating the Hodgkin’s lymphoma are radiotherapy, chemotherapy, steroids, growth factors and intensive treatments which employ high-dose chemotherapy or radiotherapy in combination with the bone marrow or stem cell transplant. In cases of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the treatments used are radiotherapy, chemotherapy, biological therapy, steroids, intensive chemotherapy or surgery.
Though the disease of lymphoma scares people form all sects of the society, treatment in time can help cure the mild forms of this condition, while bringing it in control.