Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) is a type of cancer located in the body’s lymphatic system. The lymphatic system comprises lymphatic tissues located in different parts of the body that constitute the body’s immune system. It helps the body in fighting infections and other invaders by filtering out viruses, bacteria and other unnecessary substances. The lymphatic tissue is spread all around the body, which means that non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can exist anywhere. Usually, non-Hodgkins lymphoma begins in B lymphocytes (i.e. a form of white blood cells).

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Symptoms

Symptoms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma differ based on the areas of the body which are affected and how quickly the cancer spreads there.

  • Off and on chills and fever
  • Night sweats that can soak the patient’s pajamas and bed sheets even at a ‘not so hot’ room temperature
  • Itching
  • Weight loss
  • Swollen lymph nodes found in the underarms, groin, neck, or other areas
  • Shortness of breath or coughing if the lymphoma affects the lymph nodes located in the chest
  • Abdominal pain leading to constipation, vomiting, loss of appetite and nausea
  • Headaches, seizures, personality changes or concentration problems, if the brain gets affected

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Causes

In most cases, the exact causes of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma remain unknown; however, there are a few links that may point to potential causes.

  • NHL is linked to people suffering from weak immune systems, such as transplant or HIV patients.
  • It is usually found in adults, and is found in men more often than women.
  • Children can also affected with some kind of lymphoma.
  • NHL has many variations that depend on how quickly it spreads: high grade (fast growth), medium grade, and low grade (slow growth).
  • The type of lymphoma one has is further discerned on the basis of microscopic images of the cells, the kind of white blood cells from which it originates, and DNA changes, if any.

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Diagnosis

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma can be diagnosed by way of a number of examinations and tests that will vary from patient to patient.

  • A physical exam of the body will be performed by a doctor to check which areas with lymph nodes are swollen
  • Diagnosis may require a lymph node biopsy of the affected tissue
  • PET scan
  • CT scan of the abdomen, pelvis and the chest
  • Gallium scan
  • Blood test to inspect kidney function, liver function, uric acid level and protein levels
  • Complete blood count

Staging is required If NHL is found to be positive, staging will be required. This means that additional tests are performed to find out exactly how far the cancer has spread. This is helpful for additional follow ups and treatments that will prepare the patient for the future.

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Treatment

Treatment for NHL is based on a number of factors, including the patient’s health and age, the specific symptoms experienced, the time at which NHL is diagnosed, and the kind of lymphoma that the cancer constitutes. It is also possible for no treatment to be needed, and patients should only act according to the way their doctor advises. Patients should always continue to follow up with their doctor to keep themselves safe from any complications.

  • The patient may receive radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or both.
  • Some cases might require radioimmunotherapy. This involves injecting a substance inside the body that links an anti-cancer antibody with a radioactive substance.
  • If NHL returns in the patient following treatment, or if there is no response to the first round of treatment, high doses of chemotherapy may be required.
  • Additionally, autologous stem cell treatment (i.e. patient’s own cells) is a typical follow-up in such cases.
  • In case of low blood count, blood or platelet transfusions might also be required.