What is lymphoma?

Lymphoma is the most common type of blood cancer. It affects the body’s lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that defends against bacteria and viruses. Lymphomas typically develop because a change or mutation occurs inside a lymphocyte. When a lymphocyte develops cancer, it can travel through the blood and spread to other areas of the body, including the lymph nodes, bone marrow, skin and many other organs.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is one of the most common cancers. According to the American Cancer Society, it accounts for about 4% of all cancers in the United States.

What are the different types of lymphoma?

There are two main types of lymphomas. They spread and behave differently, and they require different types of treatment. It’s important to understand which type of lymphoma you have.

Hodgkin lymphoma

An uncommon form of lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma involves Reed-Sternberg cells. In the United States, about 9,000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year. While it can start anywhere, it commonly starts in lymph nodes in the chest, neck or under arms, and spreads through lymph vessels.

There are six types of Hodgkin lymphoma (HL):

  • Classic Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Nodular sclerosis Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Mixed cellularity Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Lymphocyte-rich Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Lymphocyte-depleted Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Nodular lymphocyte predominant Hodgkin lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Lymphomas that do not involve Reed-Sternberg cells are classified as non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). There are more than 90 types of the disease, which affects approximately 80,000 people each year in the United States. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma includes all skin lymphomas. Indolent non-Hodgkin lymphoma tends to grow and spread slowly, while aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphoma needs to be treated right away.

  • Common types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma include:
  • Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLDCL)
  • Follicular lymphoma
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) / Small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL)
  • Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL)
  • Marginal zone lymphomas
  • Burkitt lymphoma
  • Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia
  • Hairy cell leukemia
  • Primary central nervous system lymphoma (CNS)
  • Peripheral T-cell lymphomas
  • Precursor T-lymphoblastic lymphoma/leukemia

What are signs and symptoms of lymphoma?

Certain lymphoma signs and symptoms are similar to other illnesses such as the cold, flu or respiratory infections. Most people with these symptoms will not have lymphoma. Visit with your doctor if you have questions about symptoms you are experiencing.

Hodgkin lymphoma symptoms may include:

  • Lumps under the skin
  • Fever
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Sweating (night sweats)
  • Itching
  • Lack of energy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Cough
  • Trouble breathing or chest pain

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma symptoms may include:

  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Sweating and chills
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Feeling full after eating a small amount
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Itchy red or purple lumps under the skin
  • Headache, trouble thinking or seizures

How is lymphoma diagnosed and treated?

When a person has symptoms of lymphoma, the next step is lymphoma diagnosis and treatment. Typically, doctors will perform several exams and tests, including:

  • Physical exam and medical history
  • Biopsies
  • Lab tests of biopsy results (may include an immunohistochemistry, which looks for certain proteins that may point to lymphoma)
  • Imaging tests (chest X-ray, CT scan, MRI, PET scan or bone scan)
  • Blood tests
  • Heart and lung tests

Surgery is rarely used to treat lymphoma. Depending on the stage and type of lymphoma, your doctor may suggest:

Lymphoma Cancer Treatment at Baptist Cancer Center

Most people who develop Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma have positive outcomes. At Baptist Cancer Center, you receive advanced, leading-edge care. Your lymphoma cancer treatment team may include medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, hematologists, nutrition specialists and other dedicated professionals. We take into consideration your goals and concerns, and we work closely with you to provide you with the information and support you need.

Baptist Cancer Center physicians and specialists are dedicated to fighting Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma with you as a team and providing you with comprehensive, close-to-home care.

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