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Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a cancer (abnormal growth of cells) of B or T lymphocytes, which are a part of the lymphoid tissue found in the lymph nodes, spleen, bone marrow and the liver. The lymphoid tissue is the body’s immune system and responsible for maintaining the defence of body against micro-organisms. There are several kinds of non-hodgkin’s lymphoma which are distinguished on basis of microscopic structure. Some of the examples include Burkitt lymphoma, Mantle cell lymphoma or Hairy cell leukaemia.

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: Incidence, age and sex

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is not an uncommon occurrence in the general population. It can afflict an individual of any age; however it is more commonly encountered in middle-aged and older adults. It is more frequent in men as compared to women.

Signs and symptoms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma: Diagnosis

Individuals with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma generally present with non-specific features like fever with chills, exhaustion, intense itching and loss of weight. However, the first sign of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in most individuals is painless swelling of lymph nodes of neck, armpits and groin. Other features may depend upon the site of lymph node involvement. For example swollen lymph nodes in the chest may press upon the respiratory passages, inducing cough and shortness of breath. Compression of gastrointestinal tract by deeper lymph nodes may be manifested as abdominal pain, vomiting or constipation.

Clinical examination may reveal swelling of lymph nodes and in some cases enlargement of spleen or liver. Biopsy of affected lymph node or bone marrow aspiration may help in detecting the condition. Other investigations like blood tests, CT scan of chest or abdomen may be done to monitor the spread of the disease.

Causes and prevention of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

The exact cause of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is not known. Genetic preponderance may play a role. Increased incidence of this lymphoma has been documented in individuals infected with HIV or with a history of organ transplant.

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: Complications

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma may invade other body parts like bone marrow, digestive system and even brain. Involvement of bone marrow is exhibited by presence of anaemia, bruises and increased frequency of infections. The complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma may also arise due to its chemotherapeutic and radiotherapy management.

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: Treatment

The treatment modalities of non-Hodgkin’s disease include chemotherapy, radiotherapy and monoclonal antibodies or combined therapy. The choice of treatment needs to be chosen according to the age and health status of the individual and also the type of lymphoma. However, the main line of treatment is intravenous chemotherapeutic agents. Symptomatic measures include antipyretics for fever, antibiotics for bacterial infections and platelet transfusions in case of reduced platelets. In cases where the individual does not respond well to above stated treatment or lymphoma recurs, bone marrow transplantation may be considered. The prognosis of non-Hodgkin’s disease is variable and depends upon the pathological type of lymphoma. Some lymphomas have a good survival rate, while others may be incurable and lead to death.