Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL) refers to the cancer which is likely to develop in the lymphatic system.
Our body contains several blood cells called the lymphocytes. When these cells become damaged, they multiply uncontrollably and also abnormally increase in size. These enlarged lymph nodes further evolve into painless lumps that are widely known as tumors. As more and more damaged lymphocytes replace the normal ones, the body’s immune system becomes weak and it is no longer able to fight infections and ailments.
Such a physical condition is known as Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The cancer can develop in an individual lymph node, more than one node or any other organ like your liver or spleen. At times, Non-Hodgkin lymphoma develops in several parts of the body simultaneously. In the following section, we will give you a complete insight on this ailment and the things you should know about this.
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma can be of several types
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma can be classified in several categories and sub categories. Although most people are usually affected by follicular lymphoma and B- cell lymphomas, other common types of non Hodgkin lymphoma are mantle cell lymphoma, small lymphatic lymphoma, marginal zone B-cell lymphoma, Burkitt lymphoma, Hairy cell lymphoma, Primary central nervous system lymphoma, T cell lymphomas and peripheral T-cell lymphomas.
Deficiency in immune system and infections can cause NHL
Although the exact causes of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma are yet to be known, most doctors believe that a deficiency in the immune system is the primary cause of this ailment. Immune system is usually deficient if the individual does not get necessary nutrients or proteins. At the same time, people diagnosed with HIV or others taking immune-suppresants are also likely to have a weakened immune system.
The deficiency is also observed in people who take medication after an organ transplant or take drugs to treat HIV. Individuals with inherent immunity issues like rheumatoid arthritis or even celiac disease might also be diagnosed with this ailment. Infections like HLTV-1, Helicobacter Pylori, human herpesvirus and the Epstein Barr virus can also cause Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.
According to most medical professionals, the DNA changes that happen as a result of this ailment are usually acquired after the time of birth. They are not genetically transferred. The acquired changes can be an effect of being exposed to radiation and cancer causing chemicals. But there are also several situations when these changes do not happen due to any specific reason. The disease is usually observed among the elderly people. The risks of the ailment increase as we age.
Enlarged lymph nodes and swollen belly are common symptoms
Depending on which part of your body has been affected by Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, the symptoms can be varied and diverse.
Of all symptoms, the most common ones are enlarged lymph nodes, slightly swollen belly, immense chest pain, pressure in chest, frequent coughs, shortness of breath, high fever, significant weight loss, hot flushes, night sweats, extreme tiredness and low count of red blood cells. Most people diagnosed with this ailment have also experienced a feeling of being full after taking only a small portion of meal.
Lymphoma in your abdomen eventually becomes soft and swollen. This happens as the lymph nodes in your abdomen enlarge which also results in the building-up of a large amount of fluid. This causes your belly to be swollen and as the spleen is relatively larger, it makes you full even after having small portions.
Lymphoma can also occur in your brain
Also known as the primary brain lymphomas, this cancer cell is likely to cause headache, weakness in several parts of your body, seizures and personality changes. This can also affect your cognitive abilities and cause trouble while you think. There are also other variants of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma that can spread from the parts around your spinal cord and brain. This leads to double vision, numbness in the face and issues while speaking.
Lymphoma on your skin can be felt
Yes. When you are diagnosed with lymphoma on your skin, it can be easily seen or felt. Generally, they appear as small, itchy red or purple lumps under your skin or around the nodules. They make you feel uncomfortable and you get a sense of irritation while touching them.
NHL can be detected early if prompt attention is paid to the symptoms
Although there is no screening test that can identify NHL early, you can always be careful about the symptoms. Regular medical check-ups backed by paying prompt attention to the symptoms can lead to the early detection of lymphatic cancer.
At the same time, you should also look out for the risk factors of NHL which includes HIV infection, medication after organ transplant, cancer treatment and auto immune disease.
Although most of us do not commonly develop lymphoma, yet it is extremely important to go for frequent medical checkups to detect any sign immediately after it comes to surface. Overlooking the symptoms might cause the cancer to get into a bigger shape.
NHL can be diagnosed by Biopsy
If your doctor suggests that you have lymphoma on a specific part of your body, he will ask you to get a biopsy of that particular section. Most of the symptoms of NHL are not really specific to be certain that they are caused by cancer.
Some of them are also likely to be caused by non-cancerous issues like infection or other types of cancer. For instance, very often, we get enlarged lymph nodes because of infections and not Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Due to this reason, most doctors suggest antibiotics and wait for a couple of weeks to check if the nodes shrink in size. If no change is observed in terms of size, the doctor will then order a biopsy.
Here, usually a small part of the node, or in most cases, the entire node is removed to view under lab tests and microscope. Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma is a serious ailment and it should never be overlooked or ignored in any situation. Consult a doctor immediately if you experience one or more of the mentioned symptoms.