Lymphoma: what are the most common symptoms?

What is lymphoma?

Lymphoma is a malignant disease of the lymph nodes. At a certain moment and for unknown reasons, a specific type of lymphocytes begins to proliferate in an exaggerated and uncontrolled manner, and this disordered growth in the lymphocytes present in the lymph nodes causes them to increase in size.

There are many types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas because, under normal conditions, there are many different types of lymphocytes in the lymph nodes and in other organs that contain lymphoid tissue and the alteration in each of these lymphocytes can give rise to a lymphoma that has specific characteristics.

What treatment options are available for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma?

Since there are different types of lymphomas, the therapeutic strategies are not exactly the same. Some varieties are aggressive and require starting treatment right after diagnosis. In indolent varieties, there may be a period of time after diagnosis when it is not necessary to start treatment.

Treatment is mostly based on chemotherapy (CHOP is the most frequently used) associated with an anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody called Rituximab that specifically targets tumor cells. Treatment with Rituximab is not indicated for lymphomas originating in T lymphocytes.

Not all patients are cured with first-line treatment. Those patients who relapse may be candidates for a new chemotherapy regimen, different from the first-line and sometimes more intensive one, and eventually an autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplant.

At the present time, moreover, there are many new drugs, some of which are already approved by the regulatory agencies, that act on specific “targets” of the disease.

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What are the symptoms?

In most cases, the patient notices a lump (in the neck, under the armpit, supraclavicular, in the groin) which, on many occasions and at first, can be mistaken for an enlarged lymph node due to inflammation or infection, but which does not disappear after antibiotic or anti-inflammatory treatment.

Occasionally, lymph nodes are detected at the mediastinal level (the region between the two lungs) when an X-ray is taken.

Sometimes the patient presents with the so-called B symptoms which are the ones that alert to the potential diagnosis (weight loss not due to other causes, night sweats, night fever). The diagnosis of lymphoma is made by biopsy of one of the enlarged lymph nodes.

What causes it?

Lymphomas are neither infectious nor hereditary diseases. There is no clear environmental trigger. Their development is not related to diet, toxic habits (tobacco and alcohol), stress…