Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system, which is an important part of our immune system. It is a complex condition that is difficult to diagnose and can present in many forms, each with its own set of symptoms and treatment options. Knowing the signs and symptoms of lymphoma can help you seek immediate medical attention and get a proper diagnosis. It’s also important to understand the different treatment options available, so you can make an informed decision about the best course of action for you. Here, we take a closer look at what you need to know about lymphoma, from symptoms to diagnosis to treatment options.
Lymphoma symptoms can vary greatly depending on the type of lymphoma you have, and the stage of the diagnosis. The most common symptoms of lymphoma include:
- Fatigue and/or shortness of breath: This can be a sign that your body is having problems with normal lung function, including fatigue and shortness of breath.
- Swollen lymph nodes: Your lymph nodes are located all over your body, including in your neck, armpits and groin. Swollen lymph nodes can be a sign of lymphoma, and often indicates that the cancer has spread to your lymph nodes.
- Unexplained weight loss or weight gain: You may experience unexplained weight loss or gain, which could be a sign of another health problem, such as cancer.
- A feeling of fullness in your stomach: You may also have pain or discomfort in your stomach, which could be a sign of lymphoma.
- Bone pain: You may have pain in the bones, especially in the legs, hips and arms, which may be a sign of lymphoma.
- Headaches: You may have headaches that are not related to your diet or consumption of caffeine or alcohol.
- Night sweats: You may notice that you sweat more at night than usual, which could be a sign of lymphoma.
- Weight loss, abdominal swelling and shortness of breath are the most common symptoms of advanced lymphoma.
Diagnosis of Lymphoma
There are several diagnostic methods your doctor can use to determine if you have lymphoma. This includes:
- Physical exam: Your doctor will perform a physical exam, noting any lumps or abnormal swelling in your lymph nodes or any unusual growths.
- Blood tests: Various blood tests can be used to detect abnormal levels of lymphocytes, the white blood cells needed to fight infection and disease.
- Imaging tests: Imaging tests such as CT scans, PET scans, MRI scans and ultrasonography can be used to detect abnormal growths in your body, such as lymphomas.
- Biopsy: A biopsy involves taking a small sample of tissue and testing it for the presence of cancer cells.
- Pathology: Pathology is the study of disease-causing organisms. This method is used to identify the type of cell that causes the disease and determine the stage of the disease.
Types of Lymphoma
There are different types of lymphoma, each with its own specific risk factors. Patients are usually diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Lymphomas are also generally broken down into two categories: indolent and aggressive. Lymphoma can also be broken down into several subtypes, including:
- Burkitt’s Lymphoma: This aggressive type of lymphoma occurs in children and young adults. It is characterized by a large number of B cells in the blood and bone marrow.
- Immunoblastic lymphoma: If you have immunoblastic lymphoma, there may be an abnormally increased number of plasma cells in the bone marrow.
- Lymphoblastic lymphoma: This type of lymphoma is usually found in children.
- Mycosis fungoides: In this type of lymphoma, the T cells in the skin are abnormal, causing patches of thick, scaly, itchy skin.
- Transforming follicular lymphoma: In this type of lymphoma, the patient’s initial diagnosis may be follicular lymphoma. This is also referred to as indolent lymphoma.
Treatment Options for Lymphoma
A number of treatment options are available for patients diagnosed with lymphoma. Treatment options depend on the type of lymphoma a patient has, as well as their age, overall health, and other factors. Treatment is often a combination of several options, and may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and immunotherapy. Lymphoma is a complex disease, and each individual case is different. When choosing a treatment plan, it’s important to consider your age, overall health, the type of lymphoma you have, and the stage of the disease. It’s also important to note that finding a treatment plan that works for you may take time. With the right treatment plan and the support of your loved ones, there is a good chance that you will survive your lymphoma and live a normal, long life.
Treatment Side Effects
Treatment side effects will vary depending on the patient’s age and overall health, as well as the specific diagnosis and treatment plan. Some of the most common side effects of lymphoma treatment include fatigue, joint pain, hair loss, and changes in appetite. Some people may experience more severe side effects from medication, such as infection, organ damage, heart problems, and internal bleeding. It is important to discuss all potential side effects with your doctor so you can make an informed decision about the best course of action for you.
Lymphoma is a complex disease, and each individual case is different. While it’s possible to survive and recover from lymphoma, it’s important to note that views vary from person to person, and there’s no way to predict exactly how each individual’s disease will progress. With the right treatment plan and the support of your loved ones, there is a good chance that you will survive your lymphoma and live a normal, long life.