Lymphoma is the cancer which impairs normal function of immune system that involves lymph nodes and lymphatic system. Lymphocytes from the bunch of white blood cells gets mutated and results into uncontrolled growth which can further metastasize via complex vasculature of lymphatic system causing cancer of immune system. Underlying molecular causes of lymphoma are still unclear, but studies suspect a genetic mutation in life cycle of lymphocytes leads to trigger of lymphoma.
Lymphoma is classified in two types – Non-Hodgkin (NHL) and Hodgkin. Both type of lymphoma involves different lymphocytes, spreads at its own pace and responds to specific treatment regime. NHL accounts about 90% of total hematological malignancy and is the seven most frequently occurring cancer worldwide. The mortality rate due to Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is higher in India than in United States and Europe. Incorrect diagnosis, delayed treatment and inappropriate or suboptimal treatment may be possible reasons for the poor outcome.
Lymphoma is often undiagnosed as the symptoms overlap with common cold or viral infection that too basic to consider it like a cancer. The chief symptom to look out for lymphoma is enlarged lymph node with pain in neck, groin, abdomen or armpits that do not subside normally would after the infection. Additional symptoms are recurrent viral fever, coughing, night sweats, tiredness, itching and weight loss etc present for long duration.
Risk factors for Lymphoma are:
- Any family member affected with Lymphoma
- Age – mostly occurs at 60+yr of age, but some type affects children and young adults too.
- Gender – females are affected more than males.
- Immune deficiency – Patients with immune compromised coz like HIV/ AIDS, post organ transplant medical complications, autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis or celiac disease.
- Certain bacterial or viral infection (Epstein Barr Virus) can increase risk of Lymphoma
It is a quirky when it comes to a conclusive diagnosis for type of lymphoma. The catch of Lymphoma is in pathological report when blood test shows unexpected high levels of lymphocytes post infection. Followed up by lymph or bone marrow biopsy, only molecular or genetic investigations can confirm diagnosis of lymphoma. Imaging test can be ordered after which to check the spread of cancer in other organs of body. NHL cases show aggressive cancer diagnosis and can be completely cured.
In depth genetic studies of subtypes of lymphatic cells, protein associated with it decides upon the stage of lymphoma and its prognosis. Likewise other cancer lymphoma can be treated with combination of chemo, radio and targeted drug therapy. Also, some lymphoma have imperceptible growth rate which are to be waited until symptoms surfaces to initiate treatment and vice versa. Immunotherapy is also emerging as the strong potential therapy option to treat Lymphoma, supported by the positive outcome and improve survival rates in clinical trials. When any of the above therapy does not respond well, stem cell transplant is the only possible option to treat lymphoma. Ultimate target of lymphoma treatment is to completely destroy the cancerous cells and reach remission stage.