What is lymphoma?

Lymphoma is a general name for a group of cancers of the blood that originate in the lymph glands. The lymph glands are organs of the immune system and are part of the body’s defense against infection and disease. Lymph glands are located throughout the body.

Lymphoma is the result of change or mutation in the infection-fighting white blood cells called lymphocytes, which are stored in the lymph glands. This change causes an uncontrolled growth of cancer cells that develop into malignant tumors in the lymph glands. Lymphoma can also originate within the central nervous system and within solid organs such as the stomach.


Lymphoma is a common cancer. As of 2010, about 628,415 people are living with lymphoma or are in remission, according to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (Source: LLS).

There are many types of lymphoma. The two main categories are:

  • Hodgkin lymphoma (Hodgkin’s disease) is less common and, if caught at the right stage, is easier to treat and cure than aggressive forms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a malignant proliferation of either T-lymphocytes, B-lymphocytes or their cellular predecessors. It is one of the most common types of cancer and one of the top cancer killers.

The prognosis for lymphoma varies depending on many factors, including the exact type of lymphoma and the stage of the disease when diagnosed. In general, lymphoma is most treatable and curable if caught in the earliest stages of the disease. Untreated or advanced lymphoma results in a proliferation of abnormal white blood cells (lymphocytes) that spread throughout the lymphatic system. These abnormal cells crowd out normal white blood cells. The abnormal white blood cells are not able to fight infections as effectively as the normal white blood cells, which results in increased infections.

The abnormal white blood cells of lymphoma also crowd out red blood cells, resulting in anemia, which is a low number of red blood cells. The abnormal white blood cells formed in lymphoma can also accumulate in the organs of the body, such as the spleen, liver and kidney and interfere with normal organ function.

Lymphoma can lead to life-threatening complications and death, especially if it is undetected and untreated. Seeking regular medical care offers the best chance of detecting lymphoma in its earliest, most curable stage. If you have lymphoma, following your treatment plan may help reduce your risk of serious complications.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of lymphoma?

Symptoms of lymphoma can vary among individuals and differ depending on the specific type and stage of advancement of the disease.

Symptoms of lymphoma are generally caused by the high numbers of abnormal white blood cells that overcome the normal white blood cells and red blood cells. The abnormal white blood cells are not able to fight infection as effectively as the normal whit... Read more about lymphomasymptoms

CAUSES

What causes lymphoma?

The underlying cause of lymphoma is not known, but in some cases lymphoma develops in people who have weakened immune systems. This includes people taking immune-suppressing drugs for an organ transplant or people with HIV/AIDS.

Certain infections are associated with the development of lymphoma. These include infection with the Epstein-Barr virus, Helicobacter pylori bacter... Read more about lymphomacauses

TREATMENTS

How is lymphoma treated?

Treatment of lymphoma begins with seeking regular medical care throughout your life. Regular medical care allows a health care professional to best evaluate the risks of developing lymphoma and promptly order diagnostic testing for such symptoms as an enlarged lymph node. These measures greatly increase the chances of catching lymphoma in its earliest, most curable stage.

The goal... Read more about lymphomatreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 6, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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