Lymphoma is a general term for cancer that develops in the lymphatic system, the part of your immune system that helps fight disease and infection.
Because the whole system is part of the body's immune system, patients with a weakened immune system such as from HIV infection or from certain drugs or medication also have a higher incidence of lymphoma.
Lymphomas are treatable with chemotherapy, and in some cases radiotherapy and/or bone marrow transplantation. They can be curable depending on the histology, type, and stage of the disease.
Hodgkin's disease — also known as Hodgkin's lymphoma — is a rare type of lymphoma, accounting for less than 1 percent of all cases of cancer in North America. Hodgkin's disease usually affects people between the ages of 15 and 35 and people older than age 55.
In Hodgkin's disease, cells in the lymphatic system grow abnormally and may spread beyond the lymphatic system. As the condition progresses, it compromises your body's ability to fight infection and symptoms appear. Symptoms of Hodgkin's disease may include the following:
However, when symptoms like these occur, they are not sure signs of Hodgkin's disease. In most cases, they actually are caused by other, less serious conditions, such as the flu. That said, when symptoms like these persist, it is important to see a doctor so that any illness can be diagnosed and treated. Only a doctor can make a diagnosis of Hodgkin's disease.
Other more common lymphatic cancers are called non-Hodgkin's lymphomas. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma accounts for about 4 percent of all new cancers in North America. The disease is about eight times more common than Hodgkin's disease. Annually in North America, about 55,000 cases of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are diagnosed and the disease accounts for about 26,000 deaths.
In non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, tumors develop from white blood cells called lymphocytes, often at different locations in your body. Normally, lymphocytes go through a predictable life cycle. Old lymphocytes die and your body creates new ones to replace them. But in non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, your body produces abnormal lymphocytes that continue to divide and grow without control. This excess of lymphocytes crowds into your lymph nodes, causing them to swell.
The most common symptom of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is a painless swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, underarm or groin. Other symptoms may include the following:
However, when symptoms like these occur, they are not sure signs of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. They also may be caused by other, less serious conditions, such as the flu or other infections, and only a doctor can make a diagnosis. Therefore, when symptoms like these are present, it is important to see a doctor so that any illness can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.