Lymphoma cancer

November 12, 2012

Lymphoma cancer

Lymphoma cancer is a disease of the lymphatic system, studies indicate that around 70% of those affected by this particular cancer are aged 50 or over; the condition appears to affect more men than women and is less prevalent amongst the African-American population than the Caucasian population.

What is the lymphatic system?

The lymphatic system is a system of thin tubes running throughout the whole body – much like the blood system. The lymphatic system has a number of roles –

  • Continual filtering of fluid into the bloodstream
  • Filtering of lymph fluid
  • Filtering of the blood
  • Fighting infection – this part of the lymphatic system should be considered to be a part of the immune system.

What is lymphoma cancer?

Lymphoma cancer, as the name suggests, is a cancer affecting the lymphatic system – there are two types of lymphoma cancer, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the difference between the two conditions is visible only under a microscope. Both lymphomas cause erratic and irregular cell production within the lymphatic system.

Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Hodgkin’s lymphoma is the least common of the lymphoma cancers – accounting for only around 20% of cases.

Hodgkin’s lymphoma is characterised by the presence of the Reed-Sternberg cell during examination of cells from the lymph nodes. These cells are believed to be a B-cell white blood cell that has become cancerous. The normal function of these B-cells is in the creation of infection fighting antibodies. The treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma is different to that for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer – this makes a correct diagnosis essential.

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is characterised by the absence of the abnormal Reed-Sternberg cells upon examination. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is generally characterised by the speed at which the cancer grows –

  • Follicular small cleaved cell lymphoma is an example of slow growing non-Hodgkin’s
  • Adult diffuse mixed cell lymphoma is an example of the more aggressive type of the disease

Symptoms of lymphoma cancer

The two lymphomas cause very similar symptoms – in particular, the classic swelling of lymph nodes in the neck, armpit and/or groin area and may also be the result of other underlying medical conditions – anyone who is anxious about the presence of these symptoms should seek the advice of their medical practitioner. Other symptoms may include -

  • Pain in the abdomen – this may be accompanied by swelling
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Persistent cough

Stages of the disease

As with other cancers, lymphoma is often diagnosed by stage -

  • Stage one – the cancer is found in only one lymph node area, typically on one side of the diaphragm
  • Stage two – the cancer is found in two or more lymph nodes or in an organ relating to the lymph node
  • Stage three – at this stage the cancer will be affecting both sides of the diaphragm
  • Stage four – this stage signifies that the lymphoma has metastasized to other areas of the lymphatic system – often far away from the original cancer site – and to other organ/s


Treatment for lymphoma largely depends on the type of lymphoma diagnosed and the stage the cancer has reached. Treatment programs include -

  • Radiation therapy – the use of high energy X-rays to kill the cancer cells and reduce the size of any tumour.
  • Chemotherapy – the use of drugs to destroy the cancer cells
  • Bone marrow transplant – some patients may require a bone marrow transplant in order to replace the diseased marrow with healthy marrow.

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