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Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can be any of a large group of cancers of the lymphocytes (white blood cells). It is a cancer that begins in cells of the immune system, which fights infections and other diseases and is composed of the lymphatic system which includes the following: lymph vessels, lymph, and lymph nodes. Since lymphatic tissue is in many parts of the body, lymphoma can start almost anywhere, but it’s first found in a lymph node. Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma begins when a lymphocyte (usually a B cell) becomes abnormal. There are several risk factors that can increase the chance that a person will develop this disease. Some of them are weakened immune system, certain infections, and age.

Symptoms associated with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma are swollen, painless lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, or groin, unexplained weight loss, fever, soaking night sweats, coughing, trouble breathing, chest pain, weakness and tiredness that don’t go away, pain, swelling, or a feeling of fullness in the abdomen.

If you have swollen lymph nodes or other symptoms that suggest lymphoma your physician will perform a series of tests. He may start with a personal and family history and do a physical exam as well as some blood tests. A chest x-ray may be ordered to check for swollen lymph nodes or other signs of disease as well as a biopsy of a lymph node to confirm diagnosis.

After the biopsy is performed a pathologist reviews the tissue sample and identifies the type of lymphoma found. The most common types of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma are diffuse large b-cell lymphoma and follicular lymphoma. Lymphomas may also be grouped by how quickly they are likely to grow also. Indolent or low-grade lymphomas grow slowly. They tend to cause few symptoms. Aggressive also called intermediate-grade and high-grade lymphomas grow and spread more quickly. They tend to cause severe symptoms. Over time may indolent lymphomas become aggressive lymphomas.

In order for your doctor to make a plan of care he needs to know the stage and extent of the disease. Staging may involve some of the following tests; bone marrow biopsy, CT scan, MRI, ultrasound, spinal tap, and PET scan. The stage is based on where lymphoma cells are found and how many areas of the body are affected. After all testing is complete your physician will go over treatment options with you. Treatment options for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma consist of chemotherapy, biological therapy, radiation therapy, or watching the disease since no symptoms are noticed at this time. A treatment plan that is best for you will be decided upon by you and your healthcare team.

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