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Lymphoma: What you should know

Lymphoma is a lymphatic cell cancer. Lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell, grow in it. These cells help the body fight disease and play an important part in the immune defenses of the body.

Since this type of cancer is present in the lymph system, it can metastasize or spread across the body to multiple tissues and organs rapidly. Lymphoma travels to the liver, bone marrow, or lungs more commonly.

People of any age may develop lymphoma, especially in children and young adults aged 15-24 years, it is among the most prevalent forms of cancer. Sometimes, it is treatable.

We look at the signs of lymphoma in this article, how to treat it, and the risk factors for the various forms.


Two major forms of lymphoma are present: Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. There are lots of subtypes among these.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Swollen glands that do not go away can be a sign of lymphoma.
Swollen glands that do not go away can be a sign of lymphoma.

Typically, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the most common form, arises in the body from B and T lymphocytes (cells) throughout the lymph nodes or tissues. Tumor development does not impact every lymph node in non-Hodgkin lymphoma, frequently skipping some and growing on others.

It accounts for 95% of cases of lymphoma.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma accounts for 4.2 percent of all cancers in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute ( NCI), and the average chance of a person contracting it is around 2.2 percent.

Hodgkin lymphoma

Hodgkin’s lymphoma is an immune system cancer that can be identified by physicians by the involvement of Reed-Sternberg cells, which are abnormally large B lymphocytes. In individuals with Hodgkin lymphoma, the cancer generally moves from one lymph node to an adjacent one.

The NCI estimate that Hodgkin lymphoma accounts for 0.5% of all cancers and approximately 0.2% of people in the U.S. will receive a diagnosis in their lifetime.


The signs of lymphoma, such as the common cold, are close to those of other infectious diseases. Usually, however, they live for a more prolonged time.

No signs can be encountered by certain individuals. Others may notice a swelling of the lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are located all over the body. In the neck, groin, abdomen, or armpits, swelling also happens.

Sometimes, the swelling is painless. If the swollen glands press on organs, bones, and other components, they could become painful. Lymphoma is mistaken for back pain by some people.

During common illnesses, such as a cold, lymph nodes can swell as well. Swelling is not overcome in the case of lymphoma. Pressure is often more likely to trigger the swelling if an illness has caused it to occur.

Symptom overlap can contribute to misdiagnosis. For a consultation, someone who has persistently swollen glands should visit the doctor.

Other signs in lymphoma of all forms may include:

  • ongoing fever without infection
  • night sweats, fever, and chills
  • weight loss and reduced appetite
  • unusual itching
  • persistent fatigue or a lack of energy
  • pain in lymph nodes after drinking alcohol

Some additional symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma include:

  • persistent coughing
  • shortness of breath
  • pain or swelling in the abdomen

If an enlarged lymph node pushes against the spinal nerves or spinal cord, pain , fatigue, paralysis, or diminished feeling may occur.

Lymphoma will quickly spread across the lymphatic system from the lymph nodes to other areas of the body. The immune system can not as successfully protect against infections as cancerous lymphocytes migrate into other tissues.


Chemotherapy is one of the possible treatments that doctors may use to treat lymphoma.

The path of therapy depends on a person ‘s type of lymphoma and the level it has reached.

Treatment may not be needed for indolent or slow-growing lymphoma.

To ensure that the cancer does not spread, watchful waiting might be enough.

If therapy is required, the following could be involved:

  • Biologic therapy: This is a drug treatment that stimulates the immune system to attack the cancer. The drug achieves this by introducing living microorganisms into the body.
  • Antibody therapy: A medical professional inserts synthetic antibodies into the bloodstream. These respond to the cancer’s toxins.
  • Chemotherapy: A healthcare team administers aggressive drug treatment to target and kill cancer cells.
  • Radioimmunotherapy: This delivers high powered radioactive doses directly into cancerous B cells and T-cells to destroy them.
  • Radiation therapy: A doctor may recommend this type of therapy to target and destroy small areas of cancer. Radiation therapy uses concentrated doses of radiation to kill cancerous cells.
  • Stem cell transplantation: This can help restore damaged bone marrow following high dose chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
  • Steroids: A doctor may inject steroids to treat lymphoma.
  • Surgery: A surgeon may remove the spleen or other organs after the lymphoma has spread. However, a cancer specialist, or oncologist, will more commonly request surgery to obtain a biopsy.

Risk factors

Different risk factors can increase the risk of both types of lymphoma.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Risk factors for non-Hodgkin lymphoma include:

  • Age: Most lymphomas occur in people aged 60 years and older. However, some types are more likely to develop in children and young adults.
  • Sex: Some types are more likely in women. Men have a higher risk of other types.
  • Ethnicity and location: In the U.S., African American and Asian American people have a lower risk for non-Hodgkin lymphoma than white people. Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma is more common in developed nations.
  • Chemicals and radiation: Nuclear radiation and certain agricultural chemicals have links to non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • Immunodeficiency: A person with a less active immune system has a higher risk. This may be due to anti-rejection medications following an organ transplant or HIV.
  • Autoimmune diseases: This type of disease occurs when the immune system attacks the body’s own cells. Examples include rheumatoid arthritis and celiac disease.
  • Infection: Certain viral and bacterial infections that transform lymphocytes, such as the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), increase the risk. This virus causes glandular fever.
  • Breast implants: These can lead to anaplastic large cell lymphoma in the breast tissue.
  • Body weight and diet: The American Cancer Society (ACS) has suggested that overweight and obesity may have some involvement in the development of lymphoma. However, more research is necessary to confirm the link.

Hodgkin lymphoma

Risk factors for Hodgkin lymphoma include:

  • Infectious mononucleosis: The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) can cause mononucleosis. This disease increases the risk of lymphoma.
  • Age: People aged 20–30 years and those 55 years of age have a higher risk of lymphoma.
  • Sex: Hodgkin lymphoma is slightly more common in males than females.
  • Family history: If a sibling has Hodgkin lymphoma, the risk is slightly higher. If the sibling is an identical twin, this risk increases significantly.
  • HIV infection: This can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of lymphoma.


imaging scans
A doctor may request imaging scans to help diagnose lymphoma.

Routine screenings for lymphoma are not available. If a person has virus symptoms that are recurrent, they can seek medical consultation.

The specialist will inquire about the individual and family medical background of the person and attempt to rule out any problems.

A physical examination, including a scan of the abdomen and chin, throat, groin, and armpits where swelling can occur, may also be done.

As this may account for most cases of swelling, the doctor can check for signs of infection in the lymph nodes.

Tests for lymphoma

Tests will confirm whether lymphoma is present.

Blood testing and biopsies: These can diagnose lymphoma and help a specialist discern between various forms of lymphoma.

A biopsy requires taking a sample of lymph tissue from a surgeon. The doctor would then give it to a laboratory for analysis. A tiny section or more of a lymph node can be removed by the surgeon. They may use a needle to take a sample of tissue in some cases.

A bone marrow biopsy would need to be done. A local anesthetic, a sedative or a general anesthetic may be needed for this.

To see how it has spread to other areas of the body, biopsies and other testing will establish the stage of the cancer.

Imaging tests: A physician can ask for imaging scans, such as:

Spinal tap: A surgeon uses a long , thin needle to scrape and examine spinal fluid under local anesthetic in this operation.

The cancer stage depends on the form, growth rate, and cellular characteristics of the cancer. The cancer persists in a small area during stage 0 or 1. It has spread to more remote organs by stage 4, and physicians find it to be more difficult to treat.

Lymphoma can also be identified by a doctor as indolent, meaning it persists in one place. Some lymphomas are severe, meaning they can spread to other parts of the body.


About 72 percent of patients with a diagnosis with non-Hodgkin lymphoma can live for at least 5 years after treatment.

86.6% of patients who are treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma will survive for at least 5 years.

When lymphoma grows, the odds of a positive result decline. It is necessary to seek medical treatment for any signs of cold or fever that linger for an prolonged period of time. Early diagnosis can increase the odds of good treatment for a condition.

Chukwuebuka Martins

Chukwuebuka Martins is a writer, researcher, and health enthusiast who specializes in human physiology. He takes great pleasure in penning informative articles on many aspects of physical wellness, which he then thoroughly enjoys sharing to the general public.