Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, or NHL, develops when cancerous cells crowd out healthy ones in the tissues and organs that make up the immune system, your bodys line of defense. To fight infection, your lymph system extends throughout most of your body, which is why lymphoma can spread easily. If you notice swollen lymph nodes, unexplained weight loss and extreme fatigue, visit your doctor. Children should also be monitored for breathing problems, a symptom of Childhood non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Although no one knows the cause of this cancer, if youre a male or Caucasian, have HIV/AIDS or intake a diet high in fats, you have a higher chance of developing adult non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Early detection and treatment can lead to success against this cancer.

Recently Answered

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    AHealthwise answered

    Call your doctor to schedule an appointment if you have had any symptoms for longer than 2 weeks, such as:

    • Painless swelling in the lymph nodes in the neck, underarm or groin.
    • Unexplained fever.
    • Drenching night sweats.
    • Extreme fatigue.
    • Unexplained weight loss in the past 6 months.
    • Itchy skin.
    • Cough or shortness of breath.
    • Pain in the belly or back.

    Who to see

    Health professionals who can evaluate your symptoms of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) include:

    • Family medicine doctors.
    • Internists.
    • Surgeons.
    • Nurse practitioners.

    When NHL is suspected, a tissue sample (biopsy) is needed to make a diagnosis. A biopsy for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is usually taken from a lymph node. But other tissues may be sampled as well. A surgeon will remove a sample of tissue so that a pathologist can examine it under a microscope to check for cancer cells.

    Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is usually treated by a medical oncologist or a hematologist. If you need radiation therapy, you will also see a radiation oncologist.



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    • 1 Answer
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      AVincent T DeVita Jr, Oncology, answered

      All cancers are in a way genetic diseases, in that they result from the mutation of normal genes that then go awry and cause the cells to grow into cancers and genes are the basis of hereditary traits.

      But you may mean are lymphomas inherited. The answer is generally no although there are examples of clusters in families. They are, however, uncommon.

      So the answer is, lymphomas, like other cancers are genetic diseases but in most cases are not inherited.

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      Hodgkin's lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are not the same disease, although they are both cancers of the lymphatic system. Hodgkin's lymphoma is identified by the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma has no such cells. Treatments for the two diseases can vary, so it's important that your doctor make an accurate diagnosis.

      See All 2 Answers
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      White males over the age of 60 are at greatest risk for developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The average age of diagnosis is 67, with only about two percent of diagnoses for people under the age of 20 and 75 percent of cases being diagnosed among those aged 55 or older. Among ethnic groups, non-Hodgkin lymphoma is most common among Caucasians, and least common among American Indians.

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      Unlike adults, children with non-Hodgkin lymphoma often display shortness of breath and anemia-like symptoms first. Children can also display the symptoms more typical of adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma, such as painless swelling of the lymph nodes, fevers of unknown origin, and night sweats. The anemia-like symptoms include weakness, rashes, and bruises. Because the disease is usually more aggressive in children, it can spread quickly into bone marrow, the blood, and the nervous system, the latter causing increased sensitivity to touch.

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      A key element of a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma is known as staging, and it is based on several factors. Once a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma has been made, a series of tests will be ordered to determine where the cancerous cells and tumors are located, and how much they've spread through the body. This determines the stage number, which can run from 1 to 4, with 1 indicating a small concentration in a single lymph node, and 4 indicating cancerous cells spread throughout the lymphatic system and/or into major organs, bone marrow, and other tissues. The stage number, along with a letter A or B (indicating the presence or absence of certain secondary symptoms) will then help the doctor determine the proper course of treatment, which could range from "watchful waiting" to intensive chemotherapy.

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      Non-Hodgkin lymphoma overwhelmingly occurs most often in lymphocytes called B-cells. Fully 85 percent of non-Hodgkin lymphomas are classified as B-cell. The most common variety classified in this group-and therefore the most common type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma-is called diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, an aggressive form of the disease marked by fast growing tumors and rapid spread to other major organs and bone marrow.

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      With over 20 different types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, doctors use a variety of variables to determine the specific type. The classification will depend on the cells involved. Primarily, doctors will look at whether they are B-cells or T-cells and what their shape looks like under a microscope. There will also be tests to determine certain genetic and chemical properties of the cells to arrive at a final type of the disease.

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      The PET scan is an imaging device that doctors can use to detect the presence of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the body and its level of concentration. PET is short for positron emission tomography, and the scan works by injecting radioactive glucose into the blood stream. The glucose is then collected in greater concentration within cancer cells than normal cells, showing doctors where masses of cancerous cells have gathered.

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      A blood test can check if your swollen lymph nodes are due to your body fighting an infection. This is because lymph nodes can easily become swollen during an infection and are not exclusively a sign of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The blood test will check the number of white blood cells as well as look for other telltale particles.