Doctors define lymphoma as being Hodgkin’s lymphoma or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is considered more severe and there are many varieties of the condition. It is a disease that affects the lymph system, the bone marrow and the blood of the affected individual. It begins in the lymph nodes, which take toxins, bacteria, viruses and parasites out of the bloodstream and which are prone to getting cancer as a result. It is the lymphocytes that are affected by non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and the tumors often begin in the lymph nodes first. Lymphocytes are a part of the immune symptom. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma has become more common than Hodgkin’s lymphoma and the reasons for this are as yet unknown.
There are numerous types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and it all depends on which lymph cell is involved. Some lymph cells are responsible for making antibodies, while others are helper cells or cells that actually destroy the pathogen. When it comes to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the most common types are follicular lymphoma and a lymphoma known as B-cell lymphoma. B cells make antibodies for the body.
The symptoms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can be very generalized and you might not know you have it for quite some time. You may feel tired all the time and not have the energy you are used to having. You can have swollen glands in the groin area, the armpit or in the neck-the most common places for lymph glands. Coughing, chest pain, fever, difficulty breathing can all be related to secondary pneumonia or directly to involvement of the lymph nodes in the chest. Besides fatigue, you can have weight loss that you cannot predict and night sweats. You can get abdominal swelling or pain in the abdomen. If you find yourself with these symptoms, even if they are mild and persistent, see your doctor for a blood test or a lymph gland biopsy to show what kind of lymphoma you may have.
Doctors do not know the direct causes of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Toxic exposure at work or in the environment may play a role as can infection with various infectious agents that can alter the DNA structure of the lymphocytes. Cancer occurs when one blood cell begins to divide out of control and many more copies of the cell are made. Eventually, the lymphocytes spread all over the body to all of the lymph glands and to the bone marrow. When it affects the bone marrow, other types of blood cells, like other white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets do not get made and you get thrombocytopenia and anemia.
B cells or T cells of the lymphatic system can be affected by lymphoma. The B cells, as mentioned, produce antibodies to fight off infection and there are helper B cells that make the other B cells work better. T cells invade tissue and kill the foreigners in the body without need for antibodies. The treatment options available differ depending on the type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma there is.
Risk factors for lymphoma include taking immunosuppressant medications for another disease. You can’t fight off toxins or pathogens very well if you are immunosuppressed. Diseases like hepatitis C, HIV and chronic Epstein-Barre infections can contribute to getting non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. H. pylori infections contribute to getting non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and chemical exposure to pesticides can play a role in the disease. Most patients with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are older than the age of 60.
When you have non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, you see a hematologist or an oncologist. They perform a complete physical and history, paying attention to the lymph nodes. An x-ray, CT scan or MRI scan of the neck, chest and abdomen can show areas of tumour along with fluid-filled areas. A PET scan can show areas of increased metabolic activity, typical of cancer. Bone marrow biopsies are commonly done to see if the bone marrow is affected.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is often treated with chemotherapy or radiation. Some slow growing tumours are not treated at all but are watched to make sure they don’t become more aggressive. In some cases, the person’ stem cells are removed from their bone marrow, grown outside of the body and are then reimplanted into the body after chemotherapy kills the rest of the bone marrow and tumor cells.
Hodgkin’s lymphoma, formerly referred to as Hodgkin’s disease, can compromise your body’s ability to fight infections if left undiagnosed and untreated. While this form of lymphoma begins in your lymphatic system, it can spread throughout your body, leaving you susceptible to any number of life-threatening illnesses.
If you or someone you love has suffered further physical harm due to a doctor’s misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of lymphoma, reach out to experienced medical malpractice attorney Ryan M. Springer. He understands how a delay in the diagnosis of your disease can lead to a lifetime of pain and suffering. He will do all he can to obtain full and fair compensation for you.