Hematology and Oncology
Lymphoma is a disorder of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system consists of lymphoid organs and lymphatic vessels and has a pivotal role in the body’s immune system. The lymphoid organs are lymph nodes, spleen, thymus gland, and bone marrow, where the lymphatic system cells are born, grown, and processed. The lymphatic system cells are lymphocytes, also called the white blood cells, which are of two types; T cells and B cells. In lymphoma, there is an abnormal enlargement (tumor) of the lymphoid organs (particularly lymph nodes) with uncontrolled production of lymphocytes. Lymphomas are quite a common type of neoplasms, mostly malignant (cancerous). They are treated with chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy and have different survival rates depending on the types and subtypes.
Although the exact cause of these cancers is still unclear, a combination of genetic and environmental factors that can induce mutations in the genetic constitution of the lymphocytes and their DNA is thought to be responsible for the disease. These mutations bring about uncontrolled divisions and the growth of the ineffective cells replacing the normal cells, ultimately pooling your blood and lymphoid organs with all of the diseased cells. The environmental factors that can trigger the disease may include infections with some agents like the Epstein-Barr virus, HIV, Helicobacter pylori, HCV, HBV, or being immunocompromised either due to congenital or acquired diseases or suffering from chronic illnesses like celiac disease, Sjogren's syndrome, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, etc.
There are many types and subtypes of lymphoma, but the two main categories are described below;
Hodgkin's lymphoma: This type has a special type of cells called the Reed–Sternberg cell. It makes 15% of the total lymphomas but is less common than non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. It starts by affecting the neck, chest, and armpits lymph nodes and progresses to the other lymph nodes down the body. It has a predictable course and prognosis. This type is almost curable due to recent treatments and ongoing research. It affects two peaks of age groups, one in the 20s and the other above 55.
Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma: All other types that don’t have the Reed–Sternberg cell fall in Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma category. They are more common than Hodgkin’s but have a poorer prognosis. The age group for this type is 65 and above.
According to National Cancer Institute, the incidence of Hodgkin's lymphoma is 2.6 cases per 100,000 population during the years 2014-2018 in the USA. It affects two peaks of age groups, one in the 20s and the other above 55.
Non-Hodgkins lymphoma is 5 times more common than Hodgkin disease. The age group for this type is 65 and above. Lymphomas are more prevalent in males than in females.
Worldwide, there were 566,000 cases of lymphoma in 2012 and 305,000 deaths. Lymphomas are the 7th most common form of cancer globally and the third-most common cancer in children. They are more prevalent in developed countries.
The following factors increase the chances of getting lymphoma.
If you are having the following symptoms, you might need to consult your doctor immediately;
Your doctor will ask you questions regarding your symptoms and will perform a physical examination, especially of the lymph nodes in the regions of the neck, armpits, chest, groin, etc. You may be advised on undergoing the following investigations;
Some other disorders that might mimic the presentation of lymphoma are;
Treatment of lymphomas depends on the types and the subtypes, the aggressiveness of the tumor, the symptoms, and patient preferences, but the best treatment modalities are chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiotherapy, bone marrow transplantation, or surgery for localized disease.
Some of the medications used in the management of lymphomas are;
The prognosis depends on the stage of the disease and many other prognostic factors like levels of serum albumin, LDH, Beta2-microglobulin, cell counts, age, tumor grade, histology, etc. The five-year survival rate for Hodgkin’s lymphoma is 86.2% and for NHL is 72.7%.
The following strategies may help you cope with your illness;
Our clinical experts continually monitor the health and medical content posted on CURA4U, and we update our blogs and articles when new information becomes available. Last reviewed by Dr.Saad Zia on May 24, 2023.
Lymphoma—Patient Version - NCI (cancer.gov)
Lymphoma Cancer | Understanding Lymphoma