Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

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Lymphoma is a cancer that starts in the white blood cells, called lymphocytes. Of the approximately 50,000 new cases of lymphoma that will be diagnosed across the U.S. this year, some will develop slowly, while others will take hold and spread quickly. There are two main categories, Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), and more than 50 different subtypes of lymphoma in total. Our expert knowledge and experience mean all of them are treatable right here.

Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) is characterized by the spread of cancer from one lymph node group to another, and by the development of symptoms such as fever, night sweats and weight loss as the disease advances.

Non-Hodgkin lymphomas (NHLs) refer to a diverse group of blood cancers. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is seen more often than the Hodgkin strain, with diffuse large cell and follicular cell lymphoma the most common.

Lymphoma diagnosis

Currently there are no screening tests for lymphoma, and very early in the disease there may be no symptoms. Symptoms of further progressed cases include:

  • Enlarged lymph nodes (in the neck, arm pit or groin)
  • Feeling full after a small amount of food
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Shortness of breath or a chronic cough
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Night sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Severe and constant itching

If symptoms arise, your primary doctor may recommend a biopsy of an enlarged lymph node. A positive test result will indicate which type and subtype of the disease is present.

We encourage all of our patients and prospective patients to empower themselves with knowledge from reputable sources.

Why does lymphoma occur?

Lymphoma develops when cancerous lymphocyte cells arise in the blood, attacking the body’s immune system. There are many factors that may play into the development of lymphoma, including age, gender (more men than women develop lymphoma), genetics, a weakened immune system, and exposure to certain chemicals, viral infections such as Epstein-Barr or HIV, and even race. In some cases, development is spontaneous.

How is lymphoma treated?

There are many variations in non-Hodgkin lymphoma. A treatment plan must be tailored to each patient.

Treatment options include the following

Observation
In cases where a slow-growing lymphoma has been diagnosed, and few if any symptoms are showing, we may choose to observe the disease and its effect on the patient. If observation reveals the lymphoma is advancing, we can then follow a more aggressive treatment path.

Radiation Therapy
Radiation may be the first course of treatment for lymphoma in its early stages or when it has spread to other organs and is causing pain.

Chemotherapy
If the disease is beginning to spread more rapidly than radiation alone can manage, cancer-killing drugs, taken orally or through regular intravenous sessions, may be the right course of action. In some cases, chemotherapy may be used in combination with radiation.

Immunotherapy
This new type of treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma boosts the patient’s immune system in the hopes of attacking lymphoma cells.

Surgery
It is not often that surgery is part of lymphoma treatment, but it may be recommended when the disease originates in, and is confined to, a certain organ.

Types of treatment by stage of lymphoma

Staging indicates the severity of a person’s cancer and is integral in determining the appropriate treatment.

Stage 1 lymphoma is found in only one lymph node or one organ.
Removing the affected area of the lymphoma-specific is recommended. Chemotherapy is sometimes an additional treatment.

Stage 2 lymphoma is found in either two or more lymph node areas or it has spread to a nearby organ.
Chemotherapy is generally recommended to treat the disease at this stage.

Stage 3 lymphoma is in lymph nodes on both sides of the body and/or has spread to nearby organs.
Treatment generally begins with high-dose chemotherapy and may add radiation.

Stage 4 lymphoma has spread widely to organs outside of the lymph system.
Treatment generally begins with high-dose chemotherapy and may add radiation. If the cancer is not responding, doctors may recommend stem cell transplants.

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Oshkosh - Michael D. Wachtel Cancer Center

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