What's in this article?
What is lymphoma?
Lymphoma is cancer of the lymph system (or lymphatic system), which is part of our immunity. It is characterized by the formation of solid tumors in the immune system. The cancer affects immune cells called lymphocytes, which are white blood cells.
Statistics from the US National Cancer Institute estimate that there are nearly 20 cases of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for every 100,000 people in the American population.
Hodgkin’s lymphoma, meanwhile, is relatively rare, with around three cases in every 100,000 people.
About 90% of lymphomas are the non-Hodgkin’s type while about 10% are Hodgkin’s.
Cancer is a group of over 100 diseases, all of which start with the growth of abnormal cells. Instead of dying in the normal cell life cycle, cancerous cells continue to divide into new abnormal cells, and grow out of control.
Lymphatic cancers are classified by the type of immune cells affected.
In non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, B-cells and T-cells are affected – both being types of lymphocyte white blood cell with special roles in immunity. In the US, B-cell lymphomas are much more common than T-cell ones.
In Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the cancer cells are usually an abnormal type of B lymphocyte, named Reed-Sternberg cells. There are many subtypes of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, typed by differences seen under the microscope – but a very high percentage of cases are classed as “classic” Hodgkin’s.
What Are Lymphoma Symptoms and Signs?
Often, the first sign of lymphoma is a painless swelling of lymph nodes in the neck, under an arm, or in the groin.
- Lymph nodes and/or tissues elsewhere in the body may also swell. The spleen, for example, may become enlarged in lymphoma.
- The enlarged lymph node sometimes causes other symptoms by pressing against a vein or lymphatic vessel (swelling of an arm or leg), a nerve (pain, numbness, or tingling), or the stomach (early feeling of fullness).
- Enlargement of the spleen (splenomegaly) may cause abdominal pain or discomfort.
- Many people have no other symptoms.
Symptoms of lymphoma may vary from patient to patient and may include one or more the following:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Night sweats
- Lack of energy
- Itching (up to 25% of patients develop this itch [pruritus], most commonly in the lower extremity but it can occur anywhere, be local, or spreading over the whole body)
- Loss of appetite
- Shortness of breath
- Back or bone pain
- Blood in the stool or vomit
- Blockage of urine flow
These symptoms are nonspecific, and not every patient will have all of these potential symptoms. This means that a patient’s symptoms could be caused by any number of conditions unrelated to cancer. For instance, they could be signs of the flu or other viral infection, but in those cases, they would not last very long. In lymphoma, the symptoms persist over time and cannot be explained by an infection or another disease.
What is the Treatment for Lymphoma?
General health-care providers rarely undertake the sole care of a cancer patient. The vast majority of cancer patients receive ongoing care from oncologists but may in fact be referred to more than one oncologist should there be any question about the disease. Patients are always encouraged to gain second opinions if the situation so warrants this approach.
- One may choose to speak with more than one oncologist to find the one with whom he or she feels most comfortable.
- In addition to one’s primary-care physician, family members or friends may offer information. Also, many communities, medical societies, and cancer centers offer telephone or Internet referral services.
Once one settles in with an oncologist, there is ample time to ask questions and discuss treatment regimens.
- The doctor will present each type of treatment, discuss the pros and cons, and make recommendations based on published treatment guidelines and his or her own experience.
- Treatment for lymphoma depends on the type and stage. Factors such as age, overall health, and whether one has already been treated for lymphoma before are included in the treatment decision-making process.
- The decision of which treatment to pursue is made with the doctor (with input from other members of the care team) and family members, but the decision is ultimately the patient’s.
- Be certain to understand exactly what will be done and why and what can be expected from these choices.
As in many cancers, lymphoma is most likely to be cured if it is diagnosed early and treated promptly.
- The most widely used therapies are combinations of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
- Biological therapy, which targets key features of the lymphoma cells, is used in many cases nowadays.
The goal of medical therapy in lymphoma is complete remission. This means that all signs of the disease have disappeared after treatment. Remission is not the same as cure. In remission, one may still have lymphoma cells in the body, but they are undetectable and cause no symptoms.
- When in remission, the lymphoma may come back. This is called recurrence.
- The duration of remission depends on the type, stage, and grade of the lymphoma. A remission may last a few months, a few years, or may continue throughout one’s life.
- Remission that lasts a long time is called durable remission, and this is the goal of therapy.
- The duration of remission is a good indicator of the aggressiveness of the lymphoma and of the prognosis. A longer remission generally indicates a better prognosis.
Remission can also be partial. This means that the tumor shrinks after treatment to less than half its size before treatment.
The following terms are used to describe the lymphoma’s response to treatment:
- Improvement: The lymphoma shrinks but is still greater than half its original size.
- Stable disease: The lymphoma stays the same.
- Progression: The lymphoma worsens during treatment.
- Refractory disease: The lymphoma is resistant to treatment.
The following terms to refer to therapy:
- Induction therapy is designed to induce a remission.
- If this treatment does not induce a complete remission, new or different therapy will be initiated. This is usually referred to as salvage therapy.
- Once in remission, one may be given yet another treatment to prevent recurrence. This is called maintenance therapy.
What is HIV
HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system, which is our body’s natural defence against illness. The virus destroys a type of white blood cell in the immune system called a T-helper cell, and makes copies of itself inside these cells. T-helper cells are also referred to as CD4 cells.
As HIV destroys more CD4 cells and makes more copies of itself, it gradually breaks down a person’s immune system. This means someone living with HIV, who is not receiving treatment, will find it harder and harder to fight off infections and diseases.
If HIV is left untreated, it may take up to 10 or 15 years for the immune system to be so severely damaged it can no longer defend itself at all. However, the speed HIV progresses will vary depending on age, health and background.
Symptoms of HIV
For the most part, the symptoms of HIV are the result of infections caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, and/or parasites.
These conditions do not normally develop in individuals with healthy immune systems, which protect the body against infection.
Treatment for HIV
The use of HIV medicines to treat HIV infection is called antiretroviral therapy (ART). ART involves taking a combination of HIV medicines (called an HIV regimen) every day. (HIV medicines are often called antiretrovirals or ARVs.)
ART prevents HIV from multiplying and reduces the amount of HIV in the body. Having less HIV in the body protects the immune system and prevents HIV infection from advancing to AIDS.
ART can’t cure HIV, but it can help people infected with HIV live longer, healthier lives. ART also reduces the risk of HIV transmission.
The Difference Between HIV and Lymphoma
Lymphoma often the first sign is painless swelling of lymph nodes in the neck, under an arm, or in the groin, lymph nodes and/or tissues elsewhere in the body may also swell. The spleen, for example, may become enlarged in lymphoma. The enlarged lymph node sometimes causes other symptoms by pressing against a vein or lymphatic vessel (swelling of an arm or leg), a nerve (pain, numbness, or tingling), or the stomach (early feeling of fullness). While HIV Symptoms of typically people experience more symptoms at the same time like, fever (high body temperature), Fatigue, tiredness , lethargy, skin rash, muscle aches pains, and headache.