Lymphoma is any type of cancer that develops in the lymphatic system. Lymphoma refers to a group of diseases where immune cells become cancerous and start to proliferate without control in the lymph nodes.
At the onset, it starts in one lymph node, but it spreads to other lymph nodes and other tissues, including the bone marrow.
Lymphoma is divided in two main groups: Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s. In Hodgkin’s lymphoma there is one specific type of cancer cells; all other types of lymphoma are characterized as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Non-Hodgkin’s is three times more frequent than Hodgkin’s lymphoma and it usually occurs in persons over 50.
Hodgkin’s lymphoma is more frequent in persons between 15 and 30 years of age or 50-70. The spread and metastases depend on the lymphoma type.
The symptoms of lymphoma, regardless the type, are the following:
- One or more lasting and painless swelling on the neck, under the armpit or the thighs that develop when the lymph nodes are swollen (due to big number of lymphocytes present)
- High temperature
- Night sweating
- Chest pain
- Loss of weight
- Swelling and uncomfortable feeling in the abdomen due to swollen lymph nodes and spleen
- Anemia, which further gives the symptoms of fatigue, pale skin, shortness of breath even during mild strain
The cause of lymphoma is not exactly known. However, it is known that it can develop in members of the family, which suggests a genetic factor. The development of lymphoma is frequently associated to a compromised immune system, such as patients with AIDS or people who take immunosuppressive drugs. Some types of lymphoma may be triggered by a viral infection. For e.g. Burkett’s lymphoma, frequent in equatorial Africa, is associated to the Epstein-Barr virus.
The risk factors for lymphoma are:
- family history
- gender – more incidence in men
- Epstein-Barr infection
- Weakened immune system
- Immunosuppressive drugs