Author: Yvette Neme Yunes.
Specialty: Hematology, bone marrow transplant, and internal medicine specialist.
Lymphoma: symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment
Lymphoma is cancer that originates in cells called lymphocytes, which are part of the body’s defense system. It can occur anywhere there is lymphoid tissue, such as lymph nodes, spleen, thymus, bone marrow, or tonsils.
In general, lymphomas are divided into Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkin’s. Non-Hodgkin’s are the most frequent, however, there are many subtypes of both lymphomas and, depending on which one the patient has, the behavior and response to treatment vary.
People over 60 years old are at higher risk of developing Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, while those between 15 and 40 years old or over 55 are more likely to develop Hodgkin lymphoma.
Also, immunosuppressed people (transplanted, HIV infected, with congenital immunodeficiency), those who have an immune disease such as systemic lupus erythematosus or celiac disease, as well as people who received radiation to treat cancer and those who have been exposed to benzene or pesticides are prone to developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
- Growth of nodes, which are not usually painful and appear more frequently in the neck, armpits, and groin.
- Unexplained fever by an infectious process.
- Unintentional weight loss (greater than 10% of weight in less than six months).
- Excessive night sweats.
- Significant fatigue.
- Sometimes there may be itching.
- Shortness of breath or cough.
For a definitive diagnosis, it is always necessary to perform a lymph node biopsy to be analyzed by the pathology laboratory, which will help the doctor to correctly classify the type of lymphoma and to decide on the best treatment.
If the diagnosis is confirmed, imaging studies (tomography or PET-CT) should be performed to document how widespread the cancer is in the body and, in some cases, a bone marrow biopsy (usually of the iliac crest) is also necessary to determine if there is lymphoma infiltration.
Blood tests are also usually performed, which help to determine if any modifications to the treatment should be made and to observe some characteristics of the lymphoma.
Most lymphomas can be treated successfully. Treatment is usually with intravenous chemotherapy accompanied by immunotherapy (antibodies directed against the malignant lymphocyte).
In some cases, radiotherapy can be used (for example, when they are non-aggressive lymphomas and are located in a single region) or a combination of both (chemotherapy and radiotherapy).
In recent years, molecules have been developed that are effective for the treatment of lymphoma and that are given orally. Bone marrow transplant is used with some types and cases of lymphoma as part of the treatment. Surgery is not an effective treatment for most lymphomas and is only used in a few cases.
If you suspect that you may have lymphoma, go to your doctor who should take a medical history, as well as a complete physical examination, since there are other diseases with which it can be confused.
ABC Cancer Center has specialists in lymphomas, surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and a pathologist specialized in this type of disease derived from blood cells. It also has a molecular biology laboratory that allows better classification of lymphomas.
Similarly, there is state-of-the-art technology for conducting radiology and nuclear medicine tests, which helps to adequately stage these diseases.
For treatment, the Cancer Center has access to the most innovative drugs for the management of lymphomas and has an outpatient chemotherapy area and a radiotherapy unit in the Observatorio Campus, as well as an Infusion Center in the Santa Fe Campus.
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