Large Cell Lymphoma

November 12, 2012

Large Cell Lymphoma

Large cell lymphoma is a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that affects B- and T-cells of the immune system. This aggressive form of cancer accounts for almost 31 percent of all non-HodgkinÂ’s lymphomas and may develop in the neck, chest, throat or abdomen. It may, further, spread to skin and other tissues under the skin, bone marrow, liver, lungs, spleen, testes, thyroid and the brain. Tumors may also develop in the lymph nodes and other lymphatic tissues. About 79 percent of large cell lymphoma cases start from B-cells and another 16 percent originate in the T-cells. A small 5 percent of cases have an unidentifiable origin.

The condition can affect the elderly as well as children. In fact, 30 percent of non-Hodgkin lymphomas are diagnosed in children, especially Caucasian boys between the ages of 7 and 11 years.


Most experts are unsure of the actual cause of large cell lymphoma. However, certain viral infections such as Epstein-Barr virus and HIV, exposure to radiation, and genetic abnormalities such as ataxia telangiectasia, x-linked lymphoproliferative disease or Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome may increase the risk of this cancer.

There are three main subtypes of the disease:

  • Non-specific large cell lymphoma

  • Immunoblastic lymphoma

  • Anaplastic large cell lymphoma


While the symptoms may vary widely, the disease progresses quickly. Some symptoms include respiratory problems such as sore throat, difficulty breathing and wheezing. Digestive tract problems such as constipation, abdominal pain and reduced appetite may occur. Other symptoms include fever, itchy skin, recurrent infections, night sweats and bone pain.


Apart from performing thorough physical examination and studying the medical history of the patient, your doctor may also use biopsies, x-rays, CT scans and ultrasound tests to confirm the diagnosis. Staging depends on the spread of the disease. Lower stage large cell lymphomas are typically limited to one area, while systemic spread of the disease is categorized as a later stage.


Treatment of large cell lymphoma may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and stem cell transplants. While surgery plays a limited role in the treatment of large cell lymphomas, it may help remove tumors from certain lymph nodes. However, surgery may sometimes be risky and should be performed only after careful consideration. Your doctor may also use radiation to target cancer cells that remain after surgery. Chemotherapy involves medications that prevent the growth of cancer cells. Although it can be very effective, most chemotherapy agents are unable to differentiate between healthy cells and cancer cells. Stem cell transplantation may help restore blood the ability to make stem cells in patients who have undergone treatment for large cell lymphoma.

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