Lymphoma is a cancer that affects part of the immune system known as the lymphatic system, which includes:
- A network of vessels that carry lymph, a water fluid containing cells called lymphocytes that fight infection
- Lymph nodes
- Bone marrow
- Thymus gland
Types of Lymphoma
When cells in the lymphatic system grow and replicate too rapidly and in a disorganized fashion, it is considered cancerous. Lymphomas are mainly categorized into two types:
- Hodgkin’s disease (HD): Rare, affects cells called Reed-Sterm cells
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL): More common, affects the body’s T-calls and B-cells
Distinguishing between HD and NHL is important because the prognosis and treatment are different for each one.
HD has decreased in the United States and currently represents only 1% of cancers. NHL has increased more than 70% in the last 20 years and represents 4% of cancers, making it the fifth most common cancer with more than 65,000 new cases each year.
Caucasians are more likely to develop both HD and NHL, though NHL typically appears between 40-70 years of age. HD usually occurs in adults younger than 40 or older than 55. Both types can occur in children, but seldom before the age of five.
Symptoms of Lymphoma
Common symptoms of lymphoma include:
- Increased incidence of infections
- Night sweats
- Weight loss
- Swelling or enlargement of lymph nodes, typically in the neck, groin or armpit
Less common symptoms include:
- Red, itchy skin patches
- Nausea or vomiting
- Abdominal pain