What is Lymphoma?

Lymphoma is also known as cancer of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system consists of lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, groin, chest, and abdomen. Its main functions include removing excess fluids from our body and producing immune cells. Abnormal lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell which fights infection, become lymphoma cells, which multiply and collect in the lymph nodes. Over time, these cancerous cells will impair the immune system.

What are the Types of Lymphoma?

Lymphomas are generally categorised into 2 :

Hodgkin Lymphoma

  • Approximately 12% of people with lymphoma have Hodgkin lymphoma
  • This used to be a fatal diagnosis but owing to advancements in research and technology, and breakthrough studies, it has now been successfully transformed into a curable condition.

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

  • Majority of Non-Hodgkin lymphomas are B-cell lymphomas. They can either grow quickly (high-grade) or slowly (low-grade). There are over a dozen types of B-cell Non-Hodgkin lymphomas.
  • The remaining types of Non-Hodgkin lymphomas are known as T-cell lymphomas. This is named after a different type of cancerous white blood cell (lymphocyte).

What are the Symptoms Associated with Lymphoma?

The symptoms of lymphoma include: -

  • Difficulty breathing or chest pain;
  • Fever;
  • Itchy skin;
  • Rash;
  • Sweating;
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, or groin;
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Weight loss.

How is Lymphoma Diagnosed?

Lymphoma is diagnosed via a lymph node biopsy. Additional tests are then performed to determine the stage (extent) of the lymphoma. These additional tests may include: -

  • Blood tests;
  • Bone marrow biopsies; and
  • Imaging tests i.e., CT scan, PET scan, etc.

Imaging tests are useful to determine if the lymphoma has spread to other parts of the body, such as the spleen and lungs.

     What are the Treatment Options Available?

In modern days, many lymphoma patients are now able to live their lives actively while receiving treatment for their symptoms and are closely monitored by their physicians. Hodgkin lymphoma is one of the most curable types of cancer.

When deciding on the treatment options, physicians will generally take into account the following factors: -

  • Age;
  • General health; and
  • Stage and type of lymphoma.

The treatment options that are available for lymphoma include the following: -

  • Chemotherapy;
  • Chemotherapy + Radiotherapy (that directly targets the lymphoma);
  • Immunotherapy;
  • Stem cell transplant; and
  • Targeted therapy.

Lymphoma accounts for about half of the blood cancers that occur each year in the USA.

In 2020, Non-Hodgkin lymphoma accounted for 4% of the total newly diagnosed cancer cases in Malaysia, making it the eighth most common cancer type in the nation whereas Hodgkin lymphoma was ranked 24th and only made up for 0.48% of the total newly diagnosed cancer cases in that year.

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