Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma: Everything You Need to Know
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a type of cancer that originates in the cells of the lymphatic system, specifically the lymphocytes. This type of cancer is so named to differentiate it from the other group of lymphomas, Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The main difference between Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is the shape and characteristics of the cells that form them. However, when we speak of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, we also refer to a group that presents different subtypes of tumors.
According to the latest statistics, these tumors account for 4% of all cancers. According to estimates, around 77,000 people have received a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in the last year.
Although it can occur at any age, the incidence increases after the age of 65. In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
What is non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma?
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, as we have mentioned, is cancer that originates from lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are cells of the immune system that help fight infections and other aggressions that occur in our body.
All lymphomas can start anywhere in the body where there is lymphoid tissue. This tissue is mainly present in the lymph nodes and bone marrow, but we can also find it in the thymus, digestive tract, etcetera.
The truth is that non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma encompasses many different subtypes of tumors. The most commonly used classification was approved by the World Health Organization (WHO). They’re classified according to the type of cell from which they originate, but also by their appearance or cell markers.
As we’ve pointed out, this cancer has a higher incidence with increasing age. However, there are also many cases in childhood and adolescence. Furthermore, although there is a slight predominance in men, it affects both sexes almost equally.
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What are the symptoms?
The truth is that non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can be difficult to diagnose because, when it produces symptoms, they’re very general. There aren’t many specific signs of this type of cancer. However, certain warning signs may raise suspicion.
It’s common for the area where it’s originated to increase in size, so it’s important to know the lymphatic system. There may be enlarged lymph nodes in the groin or neck, or the liver or spleen may be palpable.
In addition, there’s usually fever, weight loss, and fatigue. When the tumor is in a specific location, symptoms may be caused by the compression of another organ or structure. For example, when the spleen grows, it usually causes back pain.
Similarly, if the lymphoma is in the chest, it may cause coughing or difficulty breathing. For this reason, it’s always important to perform complete physical examinations and necessary tests.
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How is non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma treated?
Many factors must be taken into account when treating non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Above all, it depends on whether it’s slow-growing or fast-growing. Slow-growing lymphomas usually have a better prognosis.
If the tumor is diagnosed early when it’s still localized and not very aggressive, treatment is usually based on radiotherapy. However, when it’s fast-growing, combination chemotherapy is more common.
The truth is that this type of cancer has a survival rate of more than 60% at 5 years, including its different subtypes. However, early diagnosis is very important. For this reason, you should always consult a doctor if you notice any sign of alarm.