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Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

The American Cancer Society estimates about 77,420 people will be diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma (NHL) in 2020.

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is a type of cancer that first begins in the lymphatic system, which is the system in the body that fights against disease and infections. It is the most common type of lymphoma. In NHL, abnormal cells that developed from lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, are overproduced.

What are the types of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma?

There are two types of lymphocytes where NHL can occur, which include B cell lymphocytes and T cell lymphocytes. B cells are the most common and they are typically in charge of protecting the body from different bacteria and viruses that may enter the body through the production of antibodies. These antibodies attach themselves to foreign substances so that the immune system can target them accordingly. T cells destroy germs or abnormal cells that are found in the body.

Another categorization of NHL is based on how quickly the tumor can grow or spread around the body. These two sub-categories are known as indolent and aggressive. Indolent types are slower to grow and spread. Aggressive lymphomas spread and grow at a rapid rate and require immediate treatment.

Doctors determine treatment based on the type of NHL for which the patient has been diagnosed.

What are the risk factors for Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma?

Some of the factors that may contribute to the development of NHL include:

  • Immune system suppressing medications: Those who have undergone organ transplant surgeries are more likely to take these types of medications.
  • Certain virus and bacteria induced infections: Infections such as HIV, Epstein-Barr, and Helicobacter pylori increase the risk for developing NHL.
  • Certain chemicals: Specifically, chemicals that are used as insecticides or to remove weeds.
  • Age: The older you are, the more at risk you are for developing NHL; the average age of patients is over sixty years old.
  • Genetic Syndromes: Down syndrome and Klinefelter’s syndrome increase risk for developing NHL.
  • Immune disorders: Sjögren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, or systemic lupus erythematous increase risk for developing NHL.
  • Celiac disease: This involves the inability to digest certain components of gluten.
  • Psoriasis
  • History of Lymphoma in the family
  • Inflammatory bowel disease

What are the symptoms of NHL?

Some of the general sign and symptoms when NHL is present include:

  • Swelling of the lymph nodes
  • Abdominal pain and swelling
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Sudden weight loss

How is NHL diagnosed?

Diagnosis will vary depending on symptoms that are being experienced. The doctor will then determine which tests or procedures will be used for diagnosis.

Diagnostic tests include:

  • Physical exam: Your doctor will check for any swelling of the lymph nodes, spleen, or liver.
  • Urine and blood test: These are used to help rule out any infections or other diseases that may be causing the symptoms.
  • Imaging: X-ray, CT, MRI or PET scans to detect any tumors or abnormalities.
  • Lymph node biopsy: A small tissue part of the lymph node is removed, tested and analyzed to detect NHL and the specific type.
  • Bone marrow biopsy: Bone marrow biopsy and aspiration is where a sample of bone marrow is taken out using a needle in the hipbone and is then analyzed for the presence of NHL cells