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Blood Cancer (Lymphoma)

  • What is Lymphoma?

    Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer that affects the lymphocytes, which are the white blood cells that form part of the immune system and help fight infection. The body has 2 main types of lymphocytes – B cells and T cells. In lymphoma, either the B or T lymphocytes undergo a harmful change and therefore divide and multiply uncontrollably. These abnormal lymphocytes do not work properly and crowd out the healthy cells. Lymphoma affects the normal functioning of the immune system.

    There are 2 main types of lymphoma which are characterised by different symptoms and treatment options, and these include:

    • Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) which is common in young adults between the ages of 15 – 30 years, and adults aged over 50 years
    • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) which is common in older people
  • There are various risk factors that can cause the development of lymphoma, including:

    • Certain genetic disorders (Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
    • Exposure to environmental carcinogens (cancer-causing substances)
    • Some viruses eg. human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Epstein Barr virus (EBV)
  • While the warning signs of lymphoma are very small that you may not realise you have lymphoma, the most common symptoms of lymphoma include:

    • Chest pain, bone pain or tenderness
    • Coughing and difficulty breathing
    • Enlarged (swollen) lymph glands
    • Fever
    • Loss of appetite
    • Unexplained weight loss
    • Night sweats
    • Chronic tiredness or weakness
    • Skin irritation or itchiness
  • The treatment depends on the type of lymphoma you have and may consist of a combination of 2 or more of the following options:

    • Biological therapy to help your immune system destroy the lymphoma cells
    • Chemotherapy to destroy the lymphoma cells – this may be 1 or more drugs
    • Radiation therapy (high-energy x-rays) to destroy the lymphoma cells
    • Stem cell or bone marrow transplant to replace the abnormal bone marrow
    • Targeted therapy to stop the growth of the lymphoma cells
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