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Lymphoma (Lymph Node Cancer)

  • What is Lymphoma?

    Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer that affects the lymphocytes, which are the white blood cells that form part of the immune system to help fight infections. The body has 2 main types of lymphocytes – B cells and T cells. In lymphoma, either the B or T lymphocytes undergo a harmful change and therefore divide and multiply uncontrollably. These abnormal lymphocytes do not work properly and crowd out the healthy cells. Lymphoma affects the normal functioning of the immune system.

    There are 2 main types of lymphoma, which are characterised by different symptoms and treatment options. These include:

    • Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) which is common in young adults between the ages of 15 – 30 years and adults aged over 50 years
    • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) which is common in older people
  • Various risk factors can cause the development of lymphoma, such as:

    • Certain genetic disorders (Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
    • Exposure to environmental carcinogens (cancer-causing substances)
    • Some viruses, eg. human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Epstein Barr virus (EBV)
  • While the warning signs of lymphoma might not be easily noticeable, the most common symptoms include:

    • Chest pain, bone pain or tenderness
    • Coughing and difficulty breathing
    • Enlarged (swollen) lymph glands
    • Fever
    • Loss of appetite
    • Unexplained weight loss
    • Night sweats
    • Chronic tiredness or weakness
    • Skin irritation or itchiness
  • Treatment depends on the type of lymphoma you have and may consist of a combination of 2 or more of the following options:

    • Biological therapy to help your immune system destroy the lymphoma cells
    • Chemotherapy to destroy the lymphoma cells, which may require 1 or more drugs
    • Radiation therapy (high-energy x-ray) to destroy the lymphoma cells
    • Stem cell or bone marrow transplant to replace the abnormal bone marrow
    • Targeted therapy to stop the growth of the lymphoma cells
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