What is Lymphoma?
The lymphatic system is a set of vessels in the body that transport an infection-fighting fluid throughout the body to the heart. The immune system will not be able to protect the body if the lymphatic system is not working properly. Unfortunately, this crucial part of the immune system is also very susceptible to developing cancer. A development of cancer cells in the lymphatic system is called lymphoma.
Since the lymphatic system is so large, there are dozens of different types of lymphoma. While every form of this cancer has some slight differences, they all present the same signs and symptoms. Spotting the early signs of lymphoma can be somewhat difficult if you do not know what to look for, but early detection will make treating the disease much easier.
Signs and Symptoms
The first sign of lymphoma will be enlarged and swollen lymph nodes. This swelling often occurs in the neck, armpit, and groin, but it will not cause any pain. Other common symptoms include tiredness, shortness of breath, night sweats, and a fever. If you are suffering from several of these symptoms at the same time, then it is time to visit a doctor. It is easy to overlook these issues, but that will cause more trouble in the future.
The cells in the lymphatic system are supposed to have a very short life span. They will mutate and live far too long when suffering from lymphoma. The old cells eventually become diseased and prevent healthy cells from properly doing their job. The excessive buildup of cells is what causes swelling in the lymph nodes. Doctors currently do not know what causes this cell mutation, but white men over the age of 60 are a much higher risk of developing this cancer than anyone else.
Diagnosis and Treatment Options
Your doctor will have to run a series of medical tests in order to accurately diagnose your lymphoma. Blood tests and a physical exam of the swollen lymph nodes will be the first tests performed. They may also want to biopsy a part of the lymph node to closely examine your cells. Once your lymphoma has been diagnosed, a few imaging tests will be performed to determine where exactly the cancer cells are located in the body.
The exact form of treatment used will ultimately be determined by the type and severity of your lymphoma. The goal will be to completely eliminate the cancer cells from your body. This can be done using medication, radiation therapy, or a bone marrow transplant. There are several different medications that activate the immune system, which can help kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy uses X-rays and other powerful forms of energy to kill the cancer cells in your body. A bone marrow transplant will get more healthy white blood cells into the body. These cells play a big role in helping the body fight against diseases.
Lymphoma treatment is highly effective when the disease is caught early. Once the cancer cells are completely removed, you will be able to go back to living a normal life.