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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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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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