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Understanding lymphoma

Cancers affect many different parts of the body. Lymphoma is a type of cancer that begins in cells that comprise the body’s immune system.

The immune system utilizes infection-fighting cells called lymphocytes, which are specialized white blood cells. These cells are found in the bone marrow, thymus, lymph nodes, and spleen, otherwise known as the lymph system. Individuals with lymphoma have lymphocytes that transform and grow unchecked.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there are two main kinds of lymphoma. Determining which type a person has will affect treatment plans.

¥ Hodgkin lymphoma: This is a lymphoma that spreads in an orderly fashion from one group of lymph nodes to another.

¥ Non-Hodgkin lymphoma: This lymphoma spreads erratically throughout the lymphatic system. This is the most common type of lymphoma.

Each type of lymphoma can occur in children, teens and adults. WebMD says every case of lymphoma grows at a different rate and responds differently to treatment. Lymphoma should not be confused with leukemia. Leukemia begins in blood-forming cells inside bone marrow.

Signs and symptoms of lymphoma include the following, according to the Mayo Clinic:

¥ fever

¥ painless swelling of lymph nodes in the neck, armpits or groin

¥ night sweats

¥ shortness of breath

¥ itchy skin

¥ unexplained weight loss

Consult a doctor if signs or symptoms are persistent and/or worrisome.

Certain people are at higher risk for lymphoma than others, although it can occur in anyone. Researchers have found a link between HIV infection and a higher risk of developing lymphoma. Other viruses, such as Epstein-Barr virus and human T-cell lymphotrophic virus, also have been linked to certain kinds of lymphoma. Family history and exposure to ionizing radiation also increase risk for lymphoma. Men are slightly more likely to develop lymphoma than women.

The good news is that lymphoma is highly treatable, though the outlook varies depending on the type of lymphoma. Individuals can speak with a doctor to learn more about lymphoma and treatment.


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