Childhood Lymphoma

What is childhood lymphoma?

Childhood lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic tissue of the body. Lymphatic tissue includes the lymph nodes, spleen, tonsils and adenoids, thymus, and lymphatic vessels. While many other types of cancers spread, to the lymphatic system, lymphoma originates in the lymphatic tissue.

What are the different types of childhood lymphoma?

There are two main types of lymphoma found in children: Hodgkin's lymphoma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Lymphoma, both Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkins, is the third most common type of childhood cancer.

Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Hodgkin's lymphoma accounts for approximately 40 percent of all childhood lymphomas. Childhood Hodgkin's lymphoma may be classified as classical Hodgkin's lymphoma or nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Hodgkin's lymphoma has distinct clinical and biological characteristics. The presence of Reed-Stenberg cells defines lymphoma as Hodgkin's.

Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is defined by the growth of malignant lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell. The same type of growth is associated with childhood leukemia, which can make it difficult to distinguish between the two types of cancer. Leukemia affects bone marrow, while lymphoma typically does not.

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is typically classified as either:

  • B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma
  • Lymphoblastic lymphoma
  • Anaplastic large cell lymphoma

What are the symptoms of childhood lymphoma?

The symptoms of childhood lymphoma can vary depending on the type of lymphoma. The symptoms most commonly associated with childhood Hodgkin's lymphoma include:

  • Swelling of the lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
  • Night sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained itchiness

The symptoms most commonly associated with childhood non-Hodgkin's lymphoma include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Swelling in the upper body and extremities
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fever
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Painless swelling or lump in testicles

The symptoms associated with childhood lymphoma are also associated with other common conditions. If you are concerned about symptoms your child is experiencing, schedule a consultation with your family doctor or pediatrician.

What are the causes and risk factors of childhood lymphoma?

The exact cause of childhood lymphoma remains unknown; however, there may be a link between children with compromised immune systems and lymphoma. Children with HIV or who have taken drugs to suppress their immune system following an organ transplant may be more likely to develop lymphoma.

Like many other types of childhood cancer, liver cancer in children is not strongly linked to environmental or lifestyle factors. There may be a risk of lymphoma later in life in children who have been treated for other types of cancer using chemotherapy and radiation.

How is childhood lymphoma treated?

Treatment for childhood lymphoma is individualized, meaning that each patient has a unique treatment plan. Sometimes lymphoma is treated differently in children than in adults. Because lymphoma tends to be very sensitive to chemotherapy and radiation, those types of therapies are often included in a patient's treatment plan.