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The Types of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma

Lymphomas are cancers of the lymph system which ironically is part of the bodys defense mechanism to fight off infections and diseases. But sometimes the abnormal growth of the healthy lymphatic cells causes the tissues to mass up creating tumors and eventually becoming cancer cells. If left untreated, the cancer cells can easily break away from the tissues and begin infecting other parts of the lymphatic system and eventually moving to other organs of the body. There are essentially two kinds of lymphomas, the Hodgkins lymphoma and non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Hodgkins lymphoma is characterized by the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells. Other lymphomas do not contain these cells so the rest of the lymphomas were classified as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or NHL. There are a number of sub-types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Each are quite distinct targeting specific age groups aside from having unique forms.

One kind of NHL is the lymphoblastic lymphoma or LBL which commonly occurs in children. In fact about 30% of documented cases of lymphomas in children have been classified as lymphoblastic lymphomas. LBL is very aggressive kind of NHL and has caused quite a number of deaths in the past. But because of modern medicine and treatment techniques, LBL patients have better odds of surviving the ordeal.

Unlike LBL, the diffuse histiocytic lymphoma type or DHL is a slow growing cancer. And because it is slow-growing the cancer is quite hard to detect. Also, there are times where the cancer reappears after treatment.

Another kind of NHL appears closer to the bodys surface. The cutaneous T-cell lymphoma or CTLC is a kind of lymphoma that affects the skin. What happens is that the white blood cells of the skin become cancerous. At first, the signs are dry, scaly skin with red or dark patches. These areas of the skin also itch a lot. But as the cancer cells continue to grow, the skin will develop highly noticeable tumors. Eventually the cancer cells enter the blood stream and spreads all over the body which soon infects other tissues and organs.

Although not common, the mantle cell lymphoma is another kind of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This cancer borders on being rare since only an estimated 5% of people diagnosed with NHL have it. It seems that the cancer is more likely to occur in men 50 years old and older. The cancer starts off as a slow growing lymphoma but can suddenly become aggressive in later stages.

Doctors have made 4 classifications or stages of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma which basically indicates how fast and how far the cancer cells have spread. Stage 1 is when the cancer cells are grouped in lymph node or organ of the body. In stage 2 the cancer has spread to two or more groups of lymph nodes or organs on the same side of your diaphragm. Stage 3 is where the cancer cells have infected organs on both sides of the diaphragm and finally stage 4 is when the different types of non-Hodgkins lymphoma have gone beyond the lymphatic system and infecting other organs like the liver, bones, and lungs.


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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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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 To Treat Lymphoma

Experts say that aside from being unfamiliar with signs and symptoms of lymphoma, this condition can be hard to notice because the usual signs can be quite common. Some may even be mistaken for common ailments such as fever and even colds. But if you are one of those that are at risksomebody who have cancer history in their families or those that have weak immune system that are prone to infectionsit would be best to have an appointment with your doctor.

The most common signs of lymphoma would include enlarged nodes that can be seen as lumps the neck, groin or armpits, non stop fever, loss of appetite, drastic weight loss, too much sweating during bedtime, itchiness on all parts of the body, exhaustion or the constant feeling of being weak, and breathlessness that is usually accompanied by swollen face and neck.

It is advisable that the person who experiences at least three of the mentioned symptoms would go to the doctor for a check up. Once the doctor suspects that you might be suffering from lymphoma, he or she would request for diagnostic procedures including biopsy to confirm the suspicions and to also determine how much damage have the cancer cells brought to the organs of the body.

Once final diagnosis has been made, a series of tests will soon follow in order to get detailed accounts of the disease. These reports are crucial in determining what kind of treatment should be given to the patient.

Treatment options

For those who are diagnosed with lymphoma, it is a must to undergo treatment in order to open up to greater chances of recovery. However, since there are almost 35 different types of lymphoma, the treatment options may also vary and could be on a case to case basis.

When it comes to treatment, experts say that it would be possible to use the same treatment for at least three or more types depending on their nature and the way the patient’s body reacts to it. To get better understanding in lymphoma treatment, here is some overview of the four major treatment options available for you:

1. Chemotherapy. Here, drugs are administered including infusions in the patient’s veins or can be used as in the form of pills. The most common chemotherapy schedules are ABVD, R-CHOP and CHOP.

2. Radiotherapy. This is a treatment options wherein high energy rays are used and directed exactly towards the tumor. Experts say that this can be delivered over small areas which involves field radiation or in large areas which involves extended field radiation.

3. Antibody therapy. Also known as “biological therapy”, this type of treatment make use of drugs such as “rituximab” which is specially designed to target special molecules that are present on the cancer cells’ surface.

4. Bone marrow or stem cell transplant. This is probably the most painful, not to mention the most expensivelymphoma treatment available. Here, high doses of radiation or chemotherapy are used in order to eliminate all cancer cells by killing them. What is good about this is that while it targets cancerous cells, it helps save the bone marrow through stem cells or through the use of marrow transplant.


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