Lymphomas In Childhood
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What Is Lymphomas?

Lymphoma is the disorder of cells in the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system transfers the white blood cells called lymphocytes throughout the body, thus helping in the immunity system. In lymphoma, these lymphocytes tend to become the cancer cells instead. It is estimated that around 1700 kids are diagnosed with Lymphoma in US alone. Lymphoma can be divided into two types: Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This classification is on the basis of the appearance of the cancerous (malignant) cells.

Symptoms of Lymphomas In Childhood

Lymphoma may lack the initial symptoms. Thus, it is usually seen that it is only when lymphoma has spread in the body that a person becomes aware of its presence. This can start from any part of the body while spreading onto other body parts (like liver, bone marrow, spleen etc) as well. Some of the common symptoms seen in this condition are: painless swelling of the lymph nodes, fever without any cause, fatigue or extreme tiredness, paleness, night sweats (usually a sign of Hodgkin's) and unexplained weight loss.

Causes of Lymphomas In Childhood

So far, no lifestyle factor has been termed as a definite cause for the development of lymphoma amongst kids. However, it is seen that kids who have received chemotherapy or radiation treatments before are more prone to developing lymphoma later in their lives. Usually, no one, parents or kids, are in control of the factors governing the occurrence of lymphoma as lymphoma occurs from the non-inherited mutation of the genes of the growing blood cells. At times, immunosuppressive conditions like HIV infection, prior cancer treatment, or treatment of immunosuppressive drugs for organ transplants trigger the mutation in the body resulting in the cancer. It is also observed that lymphoma might be an inherited tendency, thus the siblings of the suffering child might also be at a high risk of acquiring lymphoma. It is also suspected that few viral infections might lead to lymphoma. Environmental factors like excess exposure to pesticides, radiation, etc may also result in the predisposal of lymphoma amongst kids.

Treatment of Lymphomas In Childhood

Before starting the treatment it is essential to correctly diagnose the type of lymphoma the child is suffering from in order to administer the right treatment. This can be done by examining the blood cells under the microscope and determining what they look like. Lymphomas can be treated with a combination of chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and/or bone marrow transplants. Chemotherapy help in killing the cancer cells and shrinking the tumors. Radiotherapy too uses high-energy X-rays in order to kill cancer cells.

Although most kids recover from lymphoma, at times in severe cases, relapse has been observed. These relapsed conditions do not tend to respond to the conventional and the usual methods of treatments used. For these, therefore, bone marrow transplants and stem cell transplants become the necessary options. In bone marrow transplant, chemotherapy is first used in order to kill the cancer cells. Then the healthy bone marrow is transplanted back in the hope that new and healthy white blood cells will develop, helping the child fight infections. In stem cell transplant, stem cells (usually found in the umbilical cord, blood and bone marrow) are used to boost the immune system of the child’s body.

Side Effects of Lymphomas In Childhood

Intensive chemotherapy affects the bone marrow and causes anemia and bleeding problems in the child. Chemotherapy is also seen to have side effects like falling of hair, change of skin color, vulnerability to infection, nausea etc. In long term side effects, heart and kidney damage, reproductive problems, or the development of another cancer later in life are counted.

Who's Affected?

One in every ten cancer is the case of lymphoma amongst children, affecting one in every 100000 kids worldwide. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is most common amongst kids, while the Hodgkin’s lymphoma is usually seen in adults. Boys are slightly more prone to acquiring lymphoma than girls.

Chances for A Cure

Majority of the kids are known to completely recover from the lymphoma. These days it is estimated that about 90% of the cases diagnosed with lymphoma are successfully treated. The success rate is lower in case of non-Hodgkin’s disease with only 60% of the cured cases.

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