What is lymphoma and what types are there?

Lymphoma is a malignant proliferation of lymphocytes, which are the cells that defend the body in the immune system. This proliferation takes place in the lymph nodes or lymph nodes, although sometimes it also affects the spleen or liver. It is, therefore, a cancer that originates in the lymphatic tissue.

As a consequence of the disease, the immune system is affected, which becomes more pronounced as the disease spreads. Also, if the bone marrow has been affected it can lead to anemia or other changes in the blood cells.

It is estimated that lymphoma affects between three and six people per 100,000 inhabitants per year, with the average age of onset of the disease being 60 years.

There are two main types of lymphoma:

  1. Hodgkin’s lymphoma or Hodgkin’s disease.
  2. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas

However, there is a new classification called the REAL System, which divides the types of lymphoma according to their clinical behavior into three categories:

  • Indolent lymphomas: These are those that grow slowly. Patients with this type of lymphoma can live for many years without any treatment and without presenting the problems derived from the disease. In fact, in many of these patients, treatment is not recommended if they do not develop symptoms.
  • Aggressive or highly aggressive lymphomas: They grow faster than the previous ones. It is essential to treat patients with this type of lymphoma, otherwise life expectancy is reduced to weeks or months. Fortunately, these lymphomas respond well to chemotherapy and many of them are cured.

What are the symptoms?

Lymphomas usually manifest with lymph node enlargement, which increases in size and is visible in areas such as the neck, armpits or groin. However, when they appear in less accessible areas, such as the abdomen or mediastinum, they may go unnoticed, and diagnosis is difficult until symptoms usually appear. These symptoms include, among others

  • Fever above 38 degrees Celsius
  • Profuse sweating at night
  • Unexplained weight loss (greater than 10% in six months)
  • Enlargement of the spleen
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Causes of lymphoma or why it occurs

The exact causes that trigger lymphoma are not known at this time, except for some cases that are related to infections caused by bacteria, such as helicobacter pylori and borrelia, or Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).

Likewise, experts also associate lymphoma to factors such as hair dyes, insecticides and ionizing radiation. However, there is no conclusive evidence for this.

Can lymphoma be prevented?

There is no way to prevent lymphoma. However, experts recommend a healthy lifestyle, which could reduce the risk of its appearance, but there is no direct relationship. Other recommendations are to avoid obesity, smoking and cardiovascular risk factors, not because they can cause lymphoma, but because a person with comorbidities is less likely to overcome an aggressive treatment, such as chemotherapy, favorably.

What is the treatment?

The treatment of lymphoma depends on the prognosis, the age of the patient and his or her general state of health. A good preliminary study should be carried out to determine the extent of the disease and, subsequently, to decide on the best treatment.

The most commonly used treatments are:

  • Alkylating agents, which directly attack DNA to prevent the reproduction of cancer cells.
  • Rituximabà is a type of monoclonal antibody indicated for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or in relapses.
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation – chemotherapy
  • Hematopoietic transplantation