Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, also known as NHL, is cancer in the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is an important part of the immune system and comprises of lymphatic vessels that carry lymph to the heart. When tumors occur in lymphocytes, a type of white blood cells, it can lead to NHL. Cancers that originate in lymph tissue are considered lymphomas.
There are different types of lymphomas. A majority of NHL is categorized as B-cell or T-cell lymphoma. The common types of B-cell lymphoma are large B-cell lymphoma and follicular lymphoma. The other types of lymphoma are Burkitt’s lymphoma, marginal zone B-cell lymphoma, and extranodal marginal zone B-cell lymphoma.
Causes and symptoms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
Physicians and researchers have not yet detected the exact cause of NHL. However, it has been found out that NHL is caused when the body produces too many abnormal lymphocyte cells that continue to grow and divide. Other medical conditions that increase the risk of this disease is an immune disorder, inflammatory bowel disease, genetic syndromes, psoriasis, family history of lymphoma, and Celiac disease. Different bacteria and viruses also increase the risk of such disease.
The common symptoms of NHL are pain or swelling in the abdominal region, swollen lymph nodes, difficulty in breathing, chest pain and coughing, fatigue, weight loss, and fever. If the symptoms persist, one should consult physicians to check whether they are suffering from NHL.
Diagnosis and treatment of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
Physical exams have to be conducted to diagnose non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Tests like CT scan, PET scan, MRIs, and X-rays help in determining the presence of tumor or stages of cancer. A bone marrow biopsy will also help in determining the spread of cancer.
Treatment of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma depends on the age of the patient along with the type and stage of NHL the patient is currently in. Immediate treatment is not required in every scenario. The physicians might want to monitor the NHL and record its growth and check whether the condition is causing any symptoms.
However, aggressive forms of NHL could be treated in various ways. The first form of treatment can be the application of chemotherapy orally or via an injection to kill the cancerous cells. Depending on the stage of NHL, chemotherapy can be applied alone or in combination with other treatments. Radiation can also be applied to kill the cancerous cells with the use of high power beams of energy. Another form of treatment is a stem cell transplant. In this method, the cancerous cell along with the stem cells of the patient is killed via chemotherapy. Healthy cells from a donor or from the patients themselves are then transplanted to the body. In case a patient has healthy cells, they are required to be harvested and frozen in advance. Several medications can also be applied to increase the immunity system.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a form of cancer that is not always termed as a medical emergency unless it is detected in an advanced stage. With therapies and medication, NHL can be treated.