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Knowing Your Cancer, Hodgkins disease

Hodgkin’s lymphoma or otherwise known as Hodgkin’s disease is one of two kinds of lymphoma or a cancer of the lymphatic system. Thomas Hodgkin was the first person who published documented studies of the disease hence the cancer was named after him. Hodgkin’s lymphoma is different from the other kind of lymphoma mainly through the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells in the cancer cells. These Reed-Sternberg cells can be seen through an open biopsy. In contrast, cells seen on non-Hodgkins lymphomas are mutated B-cells or T-cells.

It has been observed that Hodgkins lymphoma oftentimes begin to develop in the lymph nodes in the neck. This is again quite different from non-Hodgkins lymphoma which beings in different locations in the body. Nonetheless, since this is cancer were talking about, from the neck lymph node spreading to other lymph node groups, the lungs, spleen, and bone marrow is only natural and inevitable if no treatment is undergone. It seems also that Hodgkin’s lymphoma targets the immediate nearby lymphatic regions before leaving eventually the lymphatic system and spreading throughout other organs of the body.

According to studies, Hodgkins lymphoma is more likely to develop in young adolescents particularly those within the age range of 15 to 24 as well as those who are more than 60 years old. Again this is quite different from non-Hodgkins lymphoma which rarely happens in young people and instead is more common to people aged 60 years old and above.

In determining a diagnosis, one can actually self-diagnose at least initially. A doctors expertise is still needed, of course, for a more accurate diagnosis of the disease. The symptoms that have been reported are not that different from the other kinds of lymphoma. The presence of a painless lump in the lymph nodes in the neck, underarm, or groin, recurrent fevers, unexplained weight loss, night sweats and itchy skins are among the warning signals of developing lymphoma.

Among the usual tests your doctors would require you to undertake includes blood tests to check abnormalities in the blood counts, blood chemistry, and abnormal erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), X-rays to look at the lymph nodes, computerized tomography or CT scan and magnetic resonance imaging or MRI scans of the chest, pelvis, and abdomen to see if the cancer has already spread to other parts of the body.

Other scans that could be used to properly diagnose and determine the stage of the cancer are the positron emission tomography or PET scan which scans the cancer at a cellular level and the gallium scan which looks for radioactive intake of gallium which can mean the onset of the disease. There are other tests and procedures which doctors might conduct on you all in the aid of a proper and accurate diagnosis.

Hodgkins lymphoma has several sub-types, namely nodular sclerosis (NS) which hits the lower neck, chest and collarbone, lymphocyte predominance (LP) which is made of malignant L&H cells which have a “popcorn”, mixed cellularity (MC) which has lymph nodes that are usually contain Reed-Sternberg cells and inflammatory cells, lymphocyte depleted (LD), and nodular lymphocyte predominant (NLP).

As they say, knowing is half the battle. Knowing more about Hodgkins disease is a good thing. You can contribute fully to the decision making process if you know exactly the situation you are in.


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How Doctors Test for Lymphoma

In all kinds of diseases and ailments knowing what you have exactly can mean life and death. Identifying, categorizing and understanding your current condition allow doctors to determine the proper and most effective means of making you better. Without proper diagnosis, the prescribed treatment can be useless and at times even prove to be deadly. In the case of lymphoma, one would encounter terms like biopsy, bone marrow examination, blood tests, spinal tap and scans which are some of the basic procedures employed by medical experts to determine or confirm the presence of lymphoma.

Usually, the very first thing that helps determine if one has lymphoma is self diagnosis. Those that observe enlarged lymph nodes in the neck, armpits or groin would more often than not trigger alarm bells in the their heads. Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymph nodes and the immune system. As the cancer cells develop, a tumor is formed usually in the lymph nodes which manifests as painless lumps. Upon consultation, your doctor will issue a battery of tests to confirm if it is lymphoma and if it is indeed cancer determine what stage it is at to know the possible course of treatment.

A biopsy is usually the first test that your doctors will employ to confirm the presence of cancer in your lymph nodes. In a biopsy, a small sample of tissue cells is taken from the lump either through a needle or via surgery. The cells are then examined by a pathologist to confirm lymphoma cells and the diagnoses. By studying the sample cells, the can also determine the basic kind of lymphoma the patient has, whether its Hodgkin or Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. But to determine the subtle details, doctors revert to the procedure called as immunohistochemistry which simply means looking for the unique properties of the tumor cell surface through the application markers such as fluorescent dye, enzyme, or colloidal gold to accurately classify the tumor.

You doctor would most likely require you to undergo several blood tests. The blood samples would be examined closely to see the state of your red blood cells, white blood cells and blood platelets. These tests would also help determine if the cancer has affected your bodys way of producing blood. The blood tests could also show the condition of your kidneys and liver. And more importantly, the information gathered from the tests could serve as basic foundations for the kind of treatments or drugs that could be used for your speedy recovery.

Doctors might also require you to undergo a bone marrow test wherein a sample of the bone marrow is taken from your hip using a thin needle. It is a common procedure used to test for various cancers and other blood diseases. A spinal tap or lumbar puncture can also be ordered by your doctor in specific circumstances. This checks the fluid in your spinal cord and determines if any cancer cells have invaded the spine. This procedure involves inserting a thin needle at the lower part of your back and I can be quite painful and uncomfortable.

CT scans will also help determine where the tumors are exactly since it takes pictures of your body from different angles. An MRI scan, on the hand, will help determine if the cancer cells have spread to your nervous system or other body organs.

How doctors tests for lymphoma involves logical procedures whose main goal is finding out what exactly the patient has in order to determine what kinds of treatments would be used.


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