What are Lymphomas?

Shannon Kietzman

Lymphomas is an umbrella term used for over forty related forms of cancer, each of which is brought about when the lymphocytes of the immune system become cancerous. As a result, the cancer cells are spread throughout the blood and are found in the lymph nodes and other organs within the lymphatic system, such as the thymus, spleen, stomach, tonsils, small intestine, and bone marrow. Lymph nodes are found in the armpit, the groin area, and the neck.

Lymph nodes can be found in the armpit region.
Lymph nodes can be found in the armpit region.

There are two broad categories of lymphomas, Hodgkin’s disease and those classified as non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas. Collectively, the lymphomas comprising the non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas category are more prevalent than Hodgkin’s disease. In addition, non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas have been rising steadily within the United States, particularly among the elderly, while cases of Hodgkin’s disease has been decreasing. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas are also more frequently found in children, with three of these lymphomas being the most common: lymphoblastics, small noncleaved cell lymphomas, and large cell lymphomas. Most non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas develop in children between the ages of ten and twenty and are rare in children younger than five.

Lymphomas can cause fever and fatigue.
Lymphomas can cause fever and fatigue.

Individuals with lymphomas often experience swelling in the lymph nodes, though it is generally painless. They may also experience fatigue and fever. If Hodgkin’s disease develops in the person’s chest, he or she may also experience shortness of breath, coughing, and chest pain. If it develops in the abdomen or the pelvis, the patient may feel full or experience swelling in the abdomen. Other symptoms include night sweats, itchy skin, and unexpected and unexplained weight loss.

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma has been increasing among the elderly in the U.S.
Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma has been increasing among the elderly in the U.S.

With non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas, a person may experience symptoms similar to those of Hodgkin’s disease. If lymphoma develops in the central nervous system, it may also cause seizures, paralysis, memory loss, and confusion.

Specific treatment strategies used for lymphomas depend on the specific type of cancer the person is diagnosed with. In most cases, lymphomas are treated with a combination of radiation, chemotherapy, bone marrow transplants, and surgery. The cure rate and life expectancy for patients with lymphomas also depends on the type the patient has, as well as how far the disease progressed before diagnosis.

Swollen lymph nodes are one symptom of lymphoma.
Swollen lymph nodes are one symptom of lymphoma.

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