Lymphoma

Lymphoma Treatment: Symptoms, Types, Side-effects, & Diagnosed | Doctors in India

Lymphoma, as the term suggests is a type of cancer which affects the Lymphatic System. The Lymphatic System runs along the Circulatory System of the body and carries infection-fighting cells to all parts of the body. When these infection-fighting cells, called Lymphocytes, multiply uncontrollably and live longer than they are supposed to, Lymphoma may develop. It may develop in the lymph nodes, spleen, bone marrow, blood or other organs and may eventually form a tumor. The tumor then grows and invades the space of surrounding tissues and organs, depriving them of oxygen and nutrients.

Types of Lymphoma

There are two main types of Lymphoma:

Non-Hodgkin and Hodgkin Lymphoma each affect a different kind of lymphocyte and grows at a different rate and responds differently to treatment. 

  • Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL) – NHL is further classified into a variety of subtypes based on the cell of origin (B-cell or T-cell), and the cell characteristics. The subtype of NHL determines the necessity of early treatment, the response to treatment, the type of treatment required and the prognosis. About 90% of the Lymphomas are Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and it occurs mainly in adults with the peak occurrence between 45-60 years of age. 
  • Hodgkin Lymphoma (HL) – Also known as Hodgkin’s Disease, HL is most common in young adults (ages 15 to 35) and other adults (above 50). It affects both adults and children. 

What Causes Lymphoma?

While the causes of Lymphoma are not exactly known, the following are more susceptible: 

  • Males who are 60-years or older
  • One who has a weak immune system from HIV/ AIDS, an organ transplant or because one is born with an immune disease
  • One who has been affected by a virus such as Epstein-Barr, Hepatitis C, Human T-Cell Leukaemia/ Lymphoma (HTLV-1), or Human Herpesvirus 8 (HHV8)
  • One who as a close relative suffering from Lymphoma
  • One who is exposed to benzene or chemicals that kills bugs and weeds
  • One who is treated for cancer with radiation therapy
  • One who is overweight

Symptoms of Lymphoma

The human body gives out several warning signs for Lymphoma, they might include: 

  • Painless swelling of one or more lymph nodes, often in the neck, armpit or groin
  • Swelling, fluid accumulation, or pain in the abdomen
  • Shortness of breath, wheezing or coughing
  • Bloody stool or vomit
  • Swelling of the face, neck, and arms
  • Blockage of urine
  • Pain in the bones
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Low-grade fever lasting many days

How is Lymphoma diagnosed?

The only way to confirm a diagnosis of Lymphoma is by carrying out a minor surgical procedure called a Biopsy that includes aspiration of the bone marrow from a pelvic bone. However, with the presence of the above symptoms, your doctor should perform other tests before ordering a biopsy, such as – a Complete Blood Count (CBC), Bone Marrow Sample, Chest X-Ray, CT Scan, MRI, PET Scan and a Lumbar Puncture. 

How is Lymphoma treated?

The treatment for Lymphoma largely depends on the type of Lymphoma and on how far has it spread. 

Treatment of Hodgkin Lymphoma (HL): 

HL is a relatively aggressive cancer and can quickly spread through the body. Despite this, it’s also one of the most easily treated types of cancer. The main treatments used are Chemotherapy, followed by Radiotherapy, or Chemotherapy alone. Surgery isn’t generally used as a treatment for the condition.

Overall, around 85% of people with Hodgkin Lymphoma live at least five years and most of these will be cured. However, there’s a risk of long-term problems after treatment, including infertility and an increased risk of developing another type of cancer in the future. 

Treatment of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL): 

NHL is usually treated with Cancer-killing Medication or Radiotherapy, although some people may not need immediate treatment. In some cases, if the initial cancer is very small, it can be removed during a biopsy and no other treatment may be needed. 

The main treatment options for NHL are: 

  • Chemotherapy – Depending on the stage of cancer, Chemotherapy can be administered either intravenously or orally. It is usually given over a period of a few months on an outpatient basis, however, if the symptoms or side-effect become troublesome, a hospital stay may be required. 
  • Radiotherapy – It is most often used to treat early-stage NHL, where the cancer is only in one part of the body. This is normally given in short daily sessions over several weeks. 
  • Monoclonal Antibody Therapy – This type of medication attaches themselves to the surface of the cancerous cells and stimulates the immune system to attack and kill the cells. This is often given in combination with Chemotherapy to make the treatment more effective. 

What are the Side Effects of Treatment?

  • Side Effects of Chemotherapy: Nausea & Vomiting, Diarrhoea, Loss of Appetite, Mouth Ulcers, Tiredness, Skin Rashes, Hair Loss, Infertility (could be temporary).
  • Side Effects of Radiotherapy: While Radiotherapy is painless, there are some common side effects such as Sore & Red Skin in the treatment area, Tiredness, Nausea & Vomiting, Dry Mouth, Loss of Appetite. 
  • Side Effects of Monoclonal Antibody Therapy: Flu-like Symptoms such as headaches, fever, & chills; Tiredness, Nausea, Itchy Rash.
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