Cancer that forms in the germ-fighting lymphatic system is called lymphoma. Types of lymphoma include Hodgkin's lymphoma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system, which is part of the body's germ-fighting network.
The lymphatic system includes the lymph nodes (lymph glands), spleen, thymus gland and bone marrow. Lymphoma can affect all those areas as well as other organs throughout the body.
Many types of lymphoma exist. The main subtypes are:
What lymphoma treatment is best for you depends on your lymphoma type and its severity. Lymphoma treatment may involve chemotherapy, immunotherapy medications, radiation therapy, a bone marrow transplant or some combination of these.
The lymphatic system is part of the body's immune system, which protects against infection and disease. The lymphatic system includes the spleen, thymus, lymph nodes and lymph channels, as well as the tonsils and adenoids.
Signs and symptoms of lymphoma may include:
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any persistent signs or symptoms that worry you.
One of the most common places to find swollen lymph nodes is in the neck. The inset shows three swollen lymph nodes below the lower jaw.
Doctors aren't sure what causes lymphoma. But it begins when a disease-fighting white blood cell called a lymphocyte develops a genetic mutation. The mutation tells the cell to multiply rapidly, causing many diseased lymphocytes that continue multiplying.
The mutation also allows the cells to go on living when other normal cells would die. This causes too many diseased and ineffective lymphocytes in your lymph nodes and causes the lymph nodes, spleen and liver to swell.
Factors that can increase the risk of lymphoma include:
Tests and procedures used to diagnose lymphoma include:
Other tests and procedures may be used depending on your situation.
Many types of lymphoma exist and knowing exactly which type you have is key to developing an effective treatment plan. Research shows that having a biopsy sample reviewed by an expert pathologist improves the chances for an accurate diagnosis. Consider getting a second opinion from a specialist who can confirm your diagnosis.
In a bone marrow aspiration, a health care provider uses a thin needle to remove a small amount of liquid bone marrow, usually from a spot in the back of your hipbone (pelvis). A bone marrow biopsy is often done at the same time. This second procedure removes a small piece of bone tissue and the enclosed marrow.
Which lymphoma treatments are right for you depends on the type and stage of your disease, your overall health, and your preferences. The goal of treatment is to destroy as many cancer cells as possible and bring the disease into remission.
Lymphoma treatments include:
No supplements have been found to treat lymphoma. But integrative medicine may help you cope with the stress of a cancer diagnosis and the side effects of cancer treatment.
Talk to your doctor about your options, such as:
A lymphoma diagnosis can be overwhelming. With time you'll find ways to cope with the stress and uncertainty of cancer. Until then, you may find it helps to:
Find someone to talk with. Find a good listener with whom you can talk about your hopes and fears. This may be a friend or a family member. The concern and understanding of a counselor, medical social worker, clergy member or cancer support group also may be helpful.
Ask your doctor about support groups in your area. You might also contact a cancer organization such as the National Cancer Institute or the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Make an appointment with your primary care doctor if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you. If your doctor suspects you have lymphoma, he or she may refer you to a doctor who specializes in diseases that affect the blood cells (hematologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready, and what to expect from your doctor.
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For lymphoma, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask additional questions.
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may allow more time to cover other points you want to address. Your doctor may ask: