What is Lymphoma?
Lymphoma is a cancer that starts in the cells that are part of the body’s immune system and many times begins in lymph nodes throughout different parts of the body. There are five different types:
- Hodgkin Lymphoma (HL): begins in white blood cells called lymphocytes, usually B lymphocytes, which make proteins called antibodiesto help protect the body from germs (bacteria and viruses).
- Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL): begins in white blood cells called lymphocytes but differs from HL and is much more common.
- Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in Children: this cancer is rare in children but does occur.
- Lymphoma of the Skin: rare lymphomas begin in the skin and are referred to as cutaneous lymphomas.
- Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia: is a type of NHL that makes large amounts of an abnormal protein called macroglobulin.
What Are Common Symptoms of Lymphoma?
Lymphomas can develop many places in the body and common signs and symptoms depend on where in the body the lymphoma is located. Common signs and symptoms include:
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Weight loss
- Fatigue (feeling very tired)
- Swollen abdomen (belly)
- Feeling full after only a small amount of food
- Chest pain or pressure
- Shortness of breath or cough
- Severe or frequent infections
- Easy bruising or bleeding
How Is Lymphoma Diagnosed?
There are no screening tests to detect lymphoma in early stages. The best way to find lymphoma early is to look out for possible symptoms – specifically enlarged lymph nodes that do not cause pain.
Most people who have a lymphoma see a doctor because of a lump that won’t go away, or because they do not feel well. Confirming a lymphoma diagnosis will then begin with a medical exam of the lymph nodes and other parts of the body that might be infected, including the spleen and liver. The doctor might also order blood tests to look for signs of infection or other problems.
What Is Follicular Lymphoma?
Follicular lymphoma is a slow-growing form of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL) that accounts for 20-30% of NHL cases. It arises from B-lymphocytes making it a B-cell lymphoma. This type of lymphoma tends not to occur in younger people, and the average age of patients is 60. Follicular lymphoma symptoms are like general lymphoma symptoms and include enlargement of the lymph nodes in the neck, underarms, abdomen, or groin, as well as fatigue, shortness of breath, night sweats, and weight loss. Often, patients with follicular lymphoma have no obvious symptoms of the disease at diagnosis. While follicular lymphoma is not considered curable, patients can often live for many years while treating it like a chronic disease, and it often responds well to treatments.
What Are Treatments for Lymphoma?
Lymphoma treatments depend on several factors and which type of lymphoma the patient has. The most common treatments are chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and depending on the case, one or both treatments will be used. Certain patients with lymphoma are treated with immunotherapy or with a stem cell transplant, especially when other standard treatments have not worked. Treatments can also include targeted therapy drugs, and sometimes surgery.
What Are New Treatment Options for Lymphoma?
Lymphoma is often not curable, and for many patients, it never goes away completely. However, patients can live for many years while managing symptoms. If you’re looking into new treatment options, you should consider enrolling in clinical trials. There are clinical trials for lymphoma patients that may provide new technology and treatments. As an example, there are clinical trials running for follicular lymphoma that aim to stop the progression of the disease. Find clinical trials you are eligible for here.