Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma is a type of cancer that attacks the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a key component of the immune system. It takes the form of tumors that grow from lymphocytes, which are a particular type of white blood cell. Non-Hodgkins lymphoma is more common and prevalent than Hodgkins lymphoma.

Causes of NHL (non-Hodgkins lymphoma)are as yet undetermined, but a number of key risk factors have been identified by medical science. Patients who take immunosuppressant drugs are more likely to develop NHL than patients who do not. Exposure to certain chemicals can increase the statistical llikelihood of developing NHL symptoms as well. A patient infected with HIV is significantly more likely to develop this particular type of cancer. Other viruses and bacterial infections have been found to correlate to the development of this cancer as well.

One telltale sign of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, while far from definitive, is swollen lymph nodes. The lymph nodes are located in the neck underneath the tonsils, under the armpits, and in the groin region. Swollen lymph nodes can occur as a result of numerous other conditions, such as routine bacterial infections, however. NH lymphoma can also result in chest pain as well as abdominal pain. Like all other types of cancer, non-Hodgkins lymphoma often causes abnormal and sudden weight loss, chronic fatigue, numbness, dizziness, night sweats, sudden changes in body temperature, and a host of other symptoms.

Patients would be wise not to attempt a self-diagnosis, as the symptoms are complex and can vary widely. A physician’s expertise is necessary to reach a diagnosis as well as a battery of tests. If you are seeing symptoms that you may believe may be indicative of such a cancer, the best thing you can do is schedule an appointment with your primary care physician as soon as possible. You might also find it helpful to take careful notes about the times and days when the symptoms began to appear, and note anything else that was occurring at the time.

When non-Hodgkins lymphoma is attacking the body, the immune system begins to function abnormally. Depending on the specific type of NHL, abnormalities will appear in the B cells or T cells. B cells and T cells are different types of lymphocytes, and non-Hodgkins lymphoma will typically affect one type of lymphocyte or the other. The disease’s effects can include overproduction of cells, malformed or mutated cells, and cells that multiply beyond their typical capacity. The disease can also spread to other areas of the lymphatic system, such as the liver and spleen. As with all types of cancer, the phenomenon of metastasis can cause the cancerous cells to spread to other systems in the body as well.

The type of lymphoma will essentially dictate how the disease must be treated. Depending on age, heredity, pre-existing medications, and other factors, treatment options will vary from patient to patient. If it appears that you may have non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a battery of tests will be required in order to make a conclusive diagnosis. Since initial symptoms can resemble those of common infections, a simple blood or urine test may be able to determine if the symptoms indicate cancer or something less severe.

Unfortunately, the presence of an infection does not rule out the presence of cancer, but your physician can use these test results to eliminate the range of root causes for your symptoms. If initial tests indicate a high probability of lymphoma, a tissue biopsy will be necessary. Tissue samples can be extracted from the lymph nodes and sent to a laboratory for testing.

While NHL is a serious and deadly disease, aggressive research is being conducted to find better treatment options and possibly a cure.

Content distributed on behalf of The Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Center with their express permission. All Rights Reserved 2012.

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