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Lymphoma Facts

Updated on November 13, 2018
Pamela99 profile image

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

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Lymphoma Patients

As the news recently revealed, Paul Allen, co-founder of Apple recently passed away from non-hodgkin lymphoma at age 65, much too young to die.

Coincidently, I talked with the receptionist at my doctor’s office with stage IV lymphoma, and she had a smile while working. She told me she was being treated, and she still had hope for a cure due to clinical trials. What impressed me the most was her beauty, smile and attitude. She told me she would go when the good Lord was ready.

I was at the doctor to complain about some problems, and her attitude made me feel my complaints were petty.

Lymphomas Statistics

Lymphoma is a type of serious cancer. It is often not found until it is in an advanced stage; the average age for diagnosis is 39. It is the most frequently diagnosed cancer for teens from 15-19.

Treatments have improved, and even with stage 4 there are treatments, plus hope for a cure in the not too distant future. You have a 1 in 47 chance of ever acquiring this type of cancer, but it is one of the more common cancers.

In 2018, the American Cancer Society states that approximately “4,680 people (41,730 males and 32,950 females)” will get this non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL) with an estimated 19,910 deaths.

The better news is that as estimated 845,076 US citizens are in remission or living with treatable lymphomas, which breaks down as:

  • 653,653 patients are in remission or living with non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • 191,423 patients are in remission or living with Hodgkin lymphoma

The survival between 2007 to 2013 has increased by 88.3% for all races, while the 5 year survival rate has increased by 77.3%. Rates for survival are similar in most of the European countries and in other continents.

Most Common Symptoms

While symptoms of lymphoma are difficult to diagnose, it is important to see a doctor if you have a persistent swelling of a lymph node. There are two types of lymphoma, which is Hodgkin's lymphoma (formerly called Hodgkin's disease) and Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Symptoms to watch include:

  • Enlarged or swollen lymph nodes in the neck, underarms or groin
  • Swollen abdomen (stomach)
  • Drenching night sweats
  • Fever, chills
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Decreased appetite- feeling full after eating a small amount
  • Generalized itching
  • Coughing, shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or pressure

The Symptoms of Lymphoma

Lymphoma Changes in the Body

This disease begins in the immune system (the infection fighting cells), which are called lymphocytes. The cells are located in the thymus, bone marrow, lymph nodes and even in other parts of the body. These cells actually change and can become out of control quickly.

Unfortunately, if there is a painless swelling in one area of the body it is often ignored. There are no widely accepted screening tests for lymphoma. Looking for an unusual swelling and getting regular checkups with the doctor is the best defense.

Lymph Nodes & Swollen Glands - Andrew Alexander MD

Diagnosis of Lymphoma

A family history and medical exam begin the process. If you have a swollen lymph node, a biopsy is next. The node is close to the skin and excisional biopsy removes the whole lymph node. An incisional biopsy removes a small portion of the lymph node. A bone marrow aspiration or biopsy is also possible. Biopsies look for a variety of unhealthy cells.

Imaging tests may include chest x-rays, CAT scans, Pet scans or MRI’s. Blood tests include a CBC, liver function, kidney function, HIV and hepatitis tests. Lung function tests and an echocardiogram of the heart may also be ordered.

When you have exhausted all possibilites, remember this: You haven't.

--Thomas Edison

Possible Causes of Lymphoma

Doctors aren't sure what causes lymphoma. A mutation occurs that cause several diseased lymphocytes to multiply quickly. The mutation may quickly allow the lymphocytes to live while healthy cells die. The unhealthy cells in the lymph nodes will cause lymph nodes to swell.

Difference Between Lymphoma Types

Lymphomas begin in a “subset of white blood cells called lymphocytes”. Lymphocytes are a component of the white blood cells, which fight off infections. The difference between Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma depends on the type of lymphocyte that attacks. A doctor can confirm this diagnosis using a microscope to look at the cells.

If the Reed-Sternberg cell is seen, it confirms Hodgkin lymphoma, and its absence confirms non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In addition, there are several specific subtypes. A diagnosis takes a few days, and the treatment course is quite different for each type of lymphoma.

Types of Lymphomas

According to the Mayo Clinic there are several types of lymphomas.

They include:

  1. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  2. Cutaneous B-cell lymphoma
  3. Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma
  4. Hodgkin’s lymphoma (Hodgkin’s disease)
  5. Non-hodgkin’s lymphoma
  6. Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia

Comment From Cancer Survivor

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Stages of Lymphomas

Lymphomas are typically staged using Roman numerals (I-IV).

  1. Stage I is diagnosed when only 1 lymph node is found or if the cancer is found in 1 part of an organ outside the lymph system.
  2. Stage II is diagnosed when 2 or more lymph nodes are found above the diaphragm (muscle below the lungs) or if the cancer extends from a lymph node to an organ.
  3. Stage III is diagnosed when lymph nodes are found above and below the diaphragm or when the lymph nodes affected are above the the diaphragm and in the spleen.
  4. Stage IV means that one organ outside of the lymphatic system is affected, such as the bone marrow, liver or the lungs.

Treatment of Lymphomas

Stage I and II may not need treatment if they are slow growing (indolent) cells. No signs or symptoms may mean no treatment for years. Treatments have more side effects than the "wait and see" approach with regular check-ups.

Stage III and IV lymphomas with signs and symptoms may be treated in a variety of ways.

These include;

  1. Chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma with aggressive symptoms may be given by an oral or injection route, plus combined with other treatments.
  2. Radiation therapy with high-powered beams (X-rays or protons) will focus on a specific area of the body. Typically this means hospital trips 5 days weekly for 30 minutes.
  3. Bone marrow transplants (stem cell transplants) will follow strong chemotherapy and radiation to suppress the bone marrow prior to the transplant.
  4. One drug therapy includes a biological therapy known as Rituxan (rituximab) that attaches to B cells. This medication ultimately replaces diseased B cells with healthy ones. The diseased B cells are less likely to reoccur.
  5. The Food and Drug Administration recently approved Imbruvica (ibrutinib) for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that attaches to cancer cells, therefore, making radiation able to directly target the cancer cells.

Clinical trials are ongoing in many facilities, which offer an option for some patients.

Top 7 Herbal Treatments for Lymphoma

Summary

There are some studies that state green tea consumption actually can help fight this disease as it has EGCG. Helpful suggestions include: using relaxation techniques exercise, yoga, meditation and massage therapy.

Of course, there can be complications with any treatment or even any medication you are taking. The most important message to receive from this article is to get any unusual swelling evaluated by a physician.

© 2018 Pamela Oglesby

Comments

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  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Tim, That treatmet sounds wonderful, but the cost would prohibit most people from afforing it. It is sad that so many treatments and medications are so expensive.

    Thank you so much for your comments.

  • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

    Tim Truzy 

    5 months ago from U.S.A.

    Hello, Pamela,

    Superb article. Recently I read of tests conducted at Duke Medical Center for a genetically engineered treatment for lymphoma. Apparently, t-cells are extracted from the patient, send to be modified, then replaced in the body of the patient. These are called: "CAR T-cells." Although the success has been stellar, according to the physicians involved, the cost for this procedure is $100,000. But apparently, the patient only requires one treatment.

    Your article explained the problems associated with treating and detecting this cancer well and gave us some hope for the future.

    Much respect,

    Tim

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi GlenR,

    There have been many advances in cancer treatmennts over the past few years, but there are so many types of cancer. Green tea is healthy for many reasons, and I drink it also.

    I appreciate your comments.

  • Glenis Rix profile image

    GlenR 

    5 months ago from UK

    Thank you for the information about symptoms and diagnosis of this horrible cancer. I keep green tea in my cupboard and you have given me another reason to drink it more regularly. It’s comforting to hear regular news nowadays about advances in less onerous treatments for various cancers.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Peg, I am sorry to hear about your father. I am glad his faith was strong. I think the chemo is really tough.

    I sure hope they find a cure soon, as it seems so many people have a loved one or a friend affected with lymphoma. I appreciate you sharing your personal experience.

  • PegCole17 profile image

    Peg Cole 

    8 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

    Thanks for this informational and interesting article about the symptoms and stages of Lymphoma. I became familiar with the disease after my Dad was diagnosed with non Hodgkin's Lymphoma in his early eighties. I'd often wondered if his cancer developed due to his lengthy exposure to asbestos aboard Navy vessels in the fifties and sixties. He also was a long-term smoker so we assumed he would succumb to lung cancer, but he didn't.

    His chemo treatment was much too intense for his age and his white blood count went to practically non-existent, far below the standard norms. I believe they forgot to give him the Procrit shots that would have protected him against that side effect. He lasted only a couple of months after diagnosis of Stage IV.

    Like the lady in your doctor's office, he told me he was ready to go and that his faith was strong. I hope that a cure is discovered soon.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Dianna, Yes, it is one of those cancers that is often not caught early enough, and I sure hope for a cure soon. I appreciate your comments.

  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 

    8 months ago

    Wish there was no such disease around! Sad that it isn't caught until the advanced stages. I am sure this will be very helpful to readers.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 months ago from Sunny Florida

    RTalloni, That was really my goal in writing this article, and I am glad you found it useful. Thanks for your comments.

  • RTalloni profile image

    RTalloni 

    8 months ago from the short journey

    Thanks very much for this look at lymphomas. It is helpful to better understand what others are going through and the information can help us be better prepared should we face the disease.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Miebakagh, Yes, you are right. Thank you for your comments.

  • Miebakagh57 profile image

    Miebakagh Fiberesima 

    9 months ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

    @Larry, yes, a cure will someday be found. Medicalscientistare still researching. Thank you.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Larry, I hope a cure arrives soon also. I appreciate your stopping by and commenting.

  • Larry Slawson profile image

    Larry Slawson 

    9 months ago from North Carolina

    Thank you for sharing. Really interesting read. So sad that this disease has claimed so many lives. Hopefully a cure can be found soon.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Peggy, I sure hope your are right. I certainly agree that too many have died. I am glad you found this information so useful. I appreciate your comments.

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 

    9 months ago from Houston, Texas

    This is an insidious disease that has taken far too many lives. Hopefully one day soon those clinical trials will result in good treatments and/or cures. This is an informative article that I will be pinning to my health board.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Clive, Yes, my heart goes out these folks also. I appreciate your comments.

  • clivewilliams profile image

    Clive Williams 

    9 months ago from Jamaica

    Heart goes out to all the folks with this illness. Great hub.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Linda, I really liked that Thomas Edson quote also. I really wanted to give hope to anyone that have been newly diagnosed. I appreciate your stopping by and commenting.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Flourish, I am sorry to hear about your uncles, and it seems so many types of cancer end up just that way. I am glad you found this article useful for quick action as well Thanks for your comments.

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 

    9 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

    This is a very informative article, Pamela. I love the fact that you've described important facts about the disease and have also provided hope. I love the Thomas Edison quote.

  • FlourishAnyway profile image

    FlourishAnyway 

    9 months ago from USA

    My uncle had chronic leukemia (type 1 in your list above) and struggled with it for many years, much longer than we believed he’d survive. He was a guinea pig with treatments until they finally ran out of even experimental options and eventually he donated his body to science. I hope there is a cure and patients see less suffering. This was a great article. I like that you give people something actionable—go to your doctor with any unusual swelling.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Louise. I have the same hope. I think the problem has been the numerous types of cancers, but I have great hope that the cure will be done soon for lymphoma. I appreciate your comments,

  • Coffeequeeen profile image

    Louise Powles 

    9 months ago from Norfolk, England

    That was very informative to read. I am hopeful that with the constant research that is being done they will find a cure for cancer one day. Things have come such a long way in recent years.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Bill, It is nasty, and I had never really researched this disease before, so I breathed a sigh of relief for my husband and myself also. I'm glad you are relieved. Thanks for stopping by so fast.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Miebakagh, I am glad you take care of yourself and make the important decisions. It was hard to find statistics for everywhere in the world, but things overall are improving. I hope they improve in Nigeria. Thanks for your comments.

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    9 months ago from Olympia, WA

    Nasty stuff for sure. You caught my interest; I went through those symptoms very carefully....and now I can breathe a sigh of relief. :) Thanks for the information, Pamela!

  • Miebakagh57 profile image

    Miebakagh Fiberesima 

    9 months ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

    Hello, Pamela, when a disease strikes, I always visit the doctor first. He/she can tell the issues better.Then I have the opinion for medical or herbal treatment. My persons resort to self treatment first which is wrong and dangerous.Here complications increased the more.

    This yourarticleis very informative. I have take a seriousnote of the issue. Thanks for sharing.

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