Lymphomas are cancers of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system drains excess fluid from the tissues. It also helps protect against infections.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a general name. It applies to many types of lymphomas. There are several different types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. They are based on the cell type that is involved and the patterns of growth. Treatment will vary according to type.
In general, these different types can be divided into two main groups:
Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide out of control or order. If cells keep dividing, a mass of tissue forms. These are called growths or tumors. If the tumor is malignant, it is cancer. They can invade nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body.
The cause of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is unknown. Mutations in DNA that occur after birth may be related to this cancer. These mutations can occur as a result of exposure to radiation or cancer causing chemicals. It may also occur with age or for no apparent reason.
Most people who develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma have no known risk factors, but the following factors may increase your chance of developing this condition:
Age: 60 to 70 years old
Frequent and accumulating exposure to certain types of chemicals (herbicides, pesticides, benzene)
Infections involving the immune system, such as
Painless swelling of the neck, underarm, groin, or any other lymph node bearing regions of the body
Unexplained weight loss
Itchy skin, especially on the legs and feet
Reddened patches on the skin
Chest pain or shortness of breath
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A
will be done. It will include an exam of your lymph nodes. Most enlarged or swollen lymph nodes result from an infection. If infection is suspected, you may be given medication and told to return.
Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy
—a small amount of bone marrow (aspiration) and bone are removed so it can be examined; often used to determine the extent of lymphoma
—A small amount of cerebrospinal fluid is removed and examined; this test is often used to determine the extent of lymphoma
Immunohistochemistry—antibodies are used to distinguish between different types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas
Flow cytometry—Biopsy samples are treated with fluorescent antibodies and exposed to a laser beam to determine the cause of lymph node swelling and/or determine the exact type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
Cytogenetics and/or molecular genetic studies—DNA in a lymphoma cell is examined for abnormalities
Blood tests—to help determine the advancement of the lymphoma
—takes a picture of structures inside the chest to look for enlarged lymph nodes
Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
—radioactive solution is injected into a vein so a special camera can look for lymphoma throughout your body and/or determine if an enlarge lymph node contains lymphoma
Gallium scan—a radioactive solution is injected into a vein so a special camera can look for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in bones and other organs; this test is useful in finding tumors that may be missed by a PET scan
—a radioactive solution is injected and travels to damaged parts of the bone
—uses sound waves to examine internal organs and find masses
depend on the stage of the cancer and its type. The type is determined in part by microscopic exam and other studies. Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Treatment options include:
For some indolent lymphomas, no treatment may be needed for some time. Treatment is needed if the tumor begins to cause symptoms such as:
Impaired organ function because of involvement with lymphoma
Treatment may also be need if the tumor becomes too large to tolerate or shows signs of becoming aggressive.
involves the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. It may be given in many forms. This may include pills, injection, and via a catheter. The drugs enter the bloodstream. It travels through the body. It will kill mostly cancer cells. Some healthy cells may also be killed.
External Radiation Therapy
is directed at the tumor from a source outside the body to kill the cancer cells.
Bone Marrow Transplantation
A patient may use their own bone marrow. In this case,
is removed, treated, and frozen. Large doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy are then applied to kill the cancer cells. After treatment, the bone marrow is replaced via a vein.
Marrow may also be donated from a healthy donor.
Peripheral Stem Cell Transplantation
Stem cells are very immature cells that produce blood cells. They are removed from circulating blood before chemotherapy or radiation treatment. These cells are then replaced after treatment. The cells can then develop new healthy cells.
These medications or substances are made by the body. They increase or restore the body’s natural defenses against cancer.
One type of biological therapy, interferons, interferes with the division of cancer cells and can slow tumor growth. Interferons are produced by the body. They can also be made in the lab to treat cancer and other diseases.
Sometimes a drug or antibody that is directed at the lymphoma is linked to a radioactive substance. It will deliver a focused dose of radiation to the tumor.
There are no guidelines for preventing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. To reduce your risk, avoid exposure to chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides, and benzene. If you have
(gluten intolerance), maintain your gluten-free diet. This diet will minimize the stimulation of your immune system by exposure to gluten.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a