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Treating Lymphoma: The Various Procedures

Cancer is a word that most of us dread to hear from our doctors. We know that its something that should not be taken lightly, plus we cant even count how many times we have seen in the movies and television about the difficulties of the disease and more often than not the sad ending that follows. So hearing you have cancer of the lymph cells, which what lymphoma really is, is more than enough to give you and your family a scare. Treating lymphoma is never easy both physically and mentally for the patient. Having the full support of the family is a good thing to have in situations like these.

Lymphoma develops when the lymph cells begin to multiply quickly beyond what is normal. This abnormal growth soon forms tumors. These lymph cells are found in blood and lymph nodes thus with the grown of the cancer cells it is only natural that the lymph nodes enlarge and manifests as painless lumps in the neck, armpits or groin.

There are two main types of lymphoma. The most common one is the Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This type is distinguished from the rest by the presence of the Reed-Sternberg cell. The spread of the cancer cells in Hodgkin’s lymphoma is more predictable and often quite limited unlike the non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas where cancer cells develop first in other organs before spreading into the lymph nodes. The non-Hodgkins types of lymphomas are classified according low-grade, intermediate-grade or high-grade lymphomas which basically is based on how quickly the cancer cells spread.

Because of the number of types of lymphomas, the treatments vary. Often the treatments are combinations of various therapies and procedures. It is normal to have a number of treatments for a single lymphoma case. Once the type of lymphoma has been diagnosed and identified, the next step is to determine what stage it is in now. The kinds and extent of treatment of the cancer is dependent on the age of the patient and the degree or stage of the lymphoma. The treatment methods are either through chemotherapy, radiation therapy, antibody therapy (or biological therapy) and bone-marrow or stem cell transplantation. Again, combining one or two of these treatment methods is possible to address the present condition of a patient.

Chemotherapy uses various drugs to kill the tumor or cancer cells. The drugs can be taken orally or through injection. The advantage of using chemotherapy is that the drugs do not cause that much damage to the nearby normal and healthy cells. Radiotherapy, on the other hand, uses X-rays to kill the tumor cells. The rays damage the DNA of the cancer cells and because the DNA is damaged the cancer cells are unable to multiply which halts that growth of the cancer. Nearby healthy cells are damaged from the radiation bombardment so the goal in radiotherapy is minimize the damage to nearby, healthy cells. That is why those who undergo radiotherapy is scheduled to receive small doses of radiation at a time to lessen the damage to the cells.

Another treatment is the antibody therapy which uses antibodies which target unique molecules of a cancer cell. This attack from the antibody will eventually kill the cancer cells. And finally, the last way of treating lymphoma is by bone marrow or stem cell transplantations. These are medical procedures where the stem cells that were destroyed by high doses of chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy are replaced through surgery.


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The Various Stages and Common Symptoms of Lymphoma

The cancer that is known as lymphoma can be clearly understood through the staging process. This refers to how the sickness is categorized based on how big it is and what parts of the body has already been affected or healed. The worse the outcome seems to be, the higher the stage of the disease could be. There are four parts or stages that the disease will be grouped into and this can only be done after the patient has undergone through series of tests and scans to rule out the body affected organs and body parts.

To give you an idea about the various stages that this illness is categorized, here are the basic points about each phase.

Stage one. At this stage, the illness has only been determined to be present at a group of lymph nodes. There are also cases wherein the illness was found in one organ, which is not part of the lymph system, but this kind of case is quite rare.

Stage two. The cancer is now seen in two or even more groups of the lymph nodes that can be found on the similar side as with the diaphragm, which is a lean kind of muscle that is located under the lungs. The diaphragm helps a person to breathe easily. This also separates the chest area from the abdomen.

Stage three. The cancer at this stage can be found at the groups of lymph nodes that are situated on both sides of the diaphragm. There are some cases wherein the adjacent organs are also involved. This also becomes part of stage III when a spleen is seen after the sickness has been detected.

Stage four. This is the terminal stage wherein the lung substance is already affected. This is also the phase when the bone marrow and liver are involved in the disease as well as the other organs that are far from the originally infected parts.

There are many other factors that can affect the results of the treatments that are done with people that are suffering from the disease, like the age of the patient and the size of the illness. If you are in the advanced stage of this sickness, you must not lose hope because there are many cases that have been healed eventually even after suffering from the higher stages.

From the early signs or when you are starting to feel like there is something wrong, do not hesitate and consult with a doctor. To help you find out if you have the symptoms that are related with the disease, here are some of the most common ones. The most common and also the most important symptoms are the lumps on your neck, groin and armpits. These are painless, which is why there are many people who disregard these easily and only start seeking help when other symptoms start to come up.

The other symptoms that you may feel once you have the enlarged lymph nodes include loss of appetite, weight loss, fever, excessive sweating, especially at night and itchiness. You may also feel weak as the cancer cells of the lymphoma start spreading and grow bigger.


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Knowing Your Cancer, How Lymphoma Spreads

These are some facts according to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society: 19.5 out of every 100,000 people in the world develop Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma while 2.8 out of every 100,000 people in the world are diagnosed with Hodgkins disease. Hodgkins disease and Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma are two of the main classifications of lymphoma, a cancer of the bodys lymph system. The lymph system, being part of our immune system, is tasked to eliminate bacteria, diseases and infection from our body. But when the cells multiply abnormally, tumors begin to appear in the lymph nodes. You can feel these as lumps in the nodes of the neck, armpit and groin. Soon the cancer cells will spread in other parts of the body, how lymphoma spreads is a good thing to know.

Metastasis. This is a word we often hear in cancer patients. This is actually a term which refers to the spreading of cancer to the rest of the body. Lymphoma at first is a single tumor in one of the many lymph nodes of the body. What happens when the cancer cells undergo metastasis is that cancer-infected cells break away from the main tumor and moves to another part of the body. The cancer cells use the bloodstream to move from one area of the body to another. The cancer cell can attach itself to another lymph node or to other organs of the body. When it fastened firmly, the cells reproduce again until it creates another mass of tissue to form as a tumor. Then the whole process repeats itself.

For lymphoma, the cancer cells use the lymphatic system of the body to spread. The lymphatic system of the body is pretty much like the bloodstream, it is spread although out the body since it is responsible for keeping the body clean from infections and diseases. The lymphatic system is an open canal where cancer cells can travel and create more tumors.

The tumors are pretty deadly. Because of the accelerated rate of growth, these cancer cells can continue to make the tumors grow. Soon enough the tumors grow large enough that the healthy tissues or organs are prevented to function normally. Eventually the healthy tissues or organs will stop functioning which spells death to the person.

Like any cancer, lymphoma has also a number of stages. These stages describe the severity of the condition and indicate how far the cancer cells have infected the body. Stage I is the first stage of the cancer. At this level, the cancer cells have only infected one lymph node or one part of the body. Because it is still developing, this stage is also referred to as the early disease.

The second stage or Stage II is far more alarming. At this point the cancer cells have metastasis and have infected another one or even more lymph nodes or parts of the body. However, at Stage II the infection is limited to either above or below the persons diaphragm. This stage is called locally advanced disease.

Stage III is known as the advanced disease. The cancer cells at this stage have found its way on both sides of the diaphragm and have established a number of tumors in those areas. The final stage or Stage IV or widespread disease is described by spread of the cancer cells to one or more of the bodys organs such as the bone, skin, liver or lungs.

This is how lymphoma spreads. That is why it is important for an early detection of the disease for proper and effective treatment.


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How Does One Get Lymphoma?

Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the bodys lymph system. Contrary to its name and to what some people might have told you, lymphoma is not just isolated on the lymph nodes and thymus gland for the lymph or lymphatic system is actually composed of the bone marrow, the thymus gland, the lymph nodes, tonsils, appendix and spleen. The system filters the waste or unwanted materials like fats and bacteria from the various body tissues. The one that picks up the bodys dirt is the lymph, a clear or sometimes yellowish fluid. But the question remains, how does one get lymphoma?

Unfortunately however, the answer to that question is not a simple one. For one, despite the thousands of hours spent on medical research and laboratory testing the actual cause of the disease is still an unknown. DNA mutation is one of the possible cause of why lymphoma develops but what happens why DNA have to mutate remains a big question to the medical science community. Medical scientists, nevertheless, have found several factors that can possibly increase the risks of developing lymphoma.

As you might have already guessed, the two general factors are genetic and environmental factors. Genetics for one is still a complicated issue that most likely cannot be resolved soon with a concluding answer. Inheriting the disease cannot still be ascertained as a valid cause. However, it was found out the people with inherited immune disorders are most likely to develop lymphoma as well. Immune disorders such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and celiac disease appear to have a hand in the development of lymphoma.

Likewise, those that have immune system disorders are also at a higher risk of developing lymphoma. Those that belong to this type of disorders include patients with HIV/AIDS, Helicobacter Pylori and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). People with compromised immune systems like those with HIV/AIDS and EBV are often candidates for lymphoma as well.

On the environmental factors side, it should be common knowledge by now that various health hazards such as exposure to chemicals and radiation causes a variety of diseases, disorders or health conditions. And this includes developing lymphoma. More specifically, solvents like acetone, alcohol (yes various alcohols), xylene, turpentine, and benzene have found to associated with lymphoma.

The same can be said with chemical herbicides and pesticides which make farmers and various workers in the agricultural sector at a higher risk on developing the disease. Some hair dye products have also been found to be a significant factor to the development of lymphoma in some patients. Although, it seems that the hair dye products that shown such effects were those manufactured before the 1980s.

How does one get lymphoma? To fully answer that question means giving more time and more funding to the medical science community to do their research and testing. Lymphoma cases are not going down and definitely the disease is not something that can be eradicated in a quick span of time. But for now, we should at least try to avoid the various factors that increase our risk of contracting the disease. Prevention is still the best cure.


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