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Looking Out For The Warning Signs Of Lymphoma

Lymphoma, the cancer of the lymph system, is one of the hardest diseases to deal with. This is because up until now, no cure has been discovered to appease the fear of people at risk in this type of disease. Although there are some preventive measures that are advertised to prevent cancer cells from growing, nothing can stop it fully once it has multiplied and disabled the function of specific organs in the body.

Lymph system refers to a network of interconnected nodes and thin tubes which paves the way for the white blood cells to be carried out in the different parts of the body. White blood cells are very important since these helps fight infections. When these cells are struck by cancer cells, it will affect the way the white blood cells and will lead to its dysfunction.

Lymphoma targets a part of the lymph system and it does not refer to single cancer but to a group of many cancers that are related. As of today, there are about 30 types of lymphoma including “Mantle Cell Lymphoma,” “Malt Lymphoma,” “Cutaneous (Skin) Lymphoma,” “Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma,” “Burkitt Lymphoma,” and “Primary CNS Lymphoma” among others but these types can belong to two different categories including the Hodgkin Disease and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.

According to experts, both categories may exhibit the same symptoms that are why the diagnosis and sets of examinations are done. But, the major difference in these two types will be noticeable depending on the person being affected.

Red flags of lymphoma

Lymphoma could be considered as a silent threat because it will take some time before its symptoms occur. And, when they do, they can be so common or “generic” thats why many people dont take it so seriously. Unless the symptoms become so noticeable and appear ever so often, that’s the only time when the person suffering from it would consider consulting a doctor.

If you are at risk, say belong to a family whose history include cancerspecifically cancer of the lymph systemthen it would be best to undergo a check up once you:

– feel painless lumps in the neck, armpits or groin. Experts say that this is the most commonand at timesthe ONLY one that is the symptom of lymphoma. Once you have enlarged nodes, it is the best time to undergo a check up. You can check if your nodes are enlarged when changing clothes or while taking a bath. You can also ask your sister or your partner to check it for you if you feel uncertain about the lumps. However, not all emerged lymph nodes are always signs of lymphoma so its better if you consult a physician to be sure.

– drastic weight loss. Once cancer cells attack the lymph system, the person will suddenly lose weight without apparent reason. In fact, once lymphoma remains undetected in the coming months, the person may lose as much as 15 to 20 pounds!

Other symptoms of lymphoma aside from enlarged lymph nodes and drastic weight loss may include continuous fever, sweating excessively specially during night time despite cold weather, and severe itchiness on almost all parts of the body which are results of special chemicals that are secreted by lymphoma cells.


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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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Diagnosing Lymphoma

Many people that suffer from lymphoma, the cancer of the lymph system, remain undiagnosed for a long time because they dont know the symptoms to watch out for.

The alarming signs of lymphoma would include enlarged nodes that are usually painless lumps that are seen in the neck, armpits or groin; sudden dropping of weight; continuous or internment fever, excessive sweating at night time, extreme itchiness every part of the body, the rapid loss in appetite; the feeling exhaustion or fatigue, weakness despite regular eating and rest, and swollen neck and face along with non stop breathlessness.

Aside from the lymph system, experts say that lymphoma can also occur in the other parts of the body or organs such as the stomach. So, when at least three of these symptoms become persistent, it would be best for you to consult a doctor so he or she could request for lymphoma diagnosis for you.

Options for lymphoma diagnosis

If you want to have an idea what are the options for you when you decide to undergo diagnosis for lymphoma, the most common tests and procedures would include biopsy, knowing the type of lymphoma and other related tests.

1. Biopsy. This is considered as the “first step” in diagnosis for lymphoma. Usually, doctors perform what they call “excisional biopsy” wherein a small sample of tissue will be acquired from the affected organs or nodes of the patient. Once the sample is acquired, an expert called “pathologist,” will examine it under the microscope. Here, it can be seen if the patient has cancer cells that would cause lymphoma. The most common type of biopsy given to those who are at risk is “lymph node biopsy”. However, when the cancerous cells affect areas such as the brain, the skin, or the abdomen or stomach, a biopsy from the mentioned organ will be prioritized. A more specific type of biopsy for lymphoma is called “Lymph Node Biopsy and Fine Needle Aspiration Cytology” or FNAC which intends to get more sample for to produce a well-detailed diagnosis.

2. How to determine the type of lymphoma. Once the biopsy has been made, the next would be how to determine the type of lymphoma there is. There are over 20 types of lymphoma but these all fall under two category including Hodgkin or non-Hodgkin lymphoma. This can be determined by the pathologist once he or she places the sample of tissue under a microscope. Here, physical appearance of the cells will be scrutinized carefully.

3. Succeeding tests after the diagnosis. After the biopsy and after the type of lymphoma has been determined, a series of tests and other examinations will follow. These are very important to be able to know exactly how much of the cancer cells have spread out and the potential damage it has brought to the organ/s affected. Other tests might include Bone Marrow Test and PET Scans for Lymphoma among others. These are crucial for the patient so he or she would undergo necessary treatments that would make the condition a lot better.


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What is Lymphoma?

Lymphoma is simply defined as a type of cancer in the lymph system. British physician Thomas Hodgkin was the first to publish initial descriptions of the condition in 1832. Thus, the specific type of lymphoma he described (Hodgkins lymphoma) was appropriately named after him. After his initial description, many other studies looked at several other forms or types of the cancerous disease.

A cancer appears when several of our bodies cells begin behaving abnormally. The body is comprised of various kinds of cells found in different organs like the nerves of blood. At times, normal cells cease getting usual biological signals that make them stop growing. When that happens, the cells abnormally continue to multiply and grow. This is the formation of cancer cells. When the cancer cells grow, the affected organ stops working normally. Several of the cancer cells also start to break off from the original site, spreading into many other body parts and affecting many other organs.

The lymph system comprises an interconnected network with thin nodes and tubes carrying white blood cells. Such cells are responsible for fighting off infections. This way, they are vitally significant to the bodys overall well-being. When a lymphocyte (a specific kind of white blood cell) in the lymph system starts to become cancerous, it would tend to multiply and grow leading to formation of lymphoma.

Which part of the body is usually affected by lymphoma? The cancer could affect any part of the lymph system. Usually, patients initially notice abnormal enlargement of the lymph nodes, specifically in the areas of the groin, the neck, and the armpits. However, lymphoma could also manifest in several other organs of the body. This is because minimal amounts of lymph tissue pass into practically every organ in the body as white blood cells reach out to different areas to perform control of infections.

This type of cancer is currently the most usual form of blood cancer or hematological malignancy especially in the developed countries. Lymphoma comprises about 5.3% of overall forms of cancers in the United States alone. It comprises of up to 55.6% of blood cancers diagnosed. According to data released by the US National Institute of Health, Hodgkins lymphoma is accounting for about 1% of total cases of cancer across the country. Patients with HIV infection and exposure to certain medications and drugs have higher incidences of lymphoma for obvious reasons.

Many forms of lymphoma are indolent (occurring lifelong even without medication or treatment) or aggressive (causing fast deterioration of health and eventually death). However, most incidences of aggressive lymphomas are responding ideally to treatment. In other words, they are curable. This condition is not a single type of cancer because it comprises of a group of several related forms of cancers. There are about 30 various types of identified lymphoma. In a broad sense, lymphoma could be categorized as either Hodgkin or Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Of course, each type has its own features and manifestations and results to different outcomes in the long term.


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