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Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma 2
Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma (Adult) Definition Lymphomas are cancers of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system drains excess fluid from the tissues and helps protect against infection. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is a general name given to many types of cancer found in the lymphatic system. These cancers are different from Hodgkin's lymphoma, a related type of cancer. Cancer occurs when cells in the body (in this case lymph cells, or lymphocytes) divide without control or order. Normally, cells divide in a regulated manner. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue forms, called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant tumors, which can invade nearby tissues and can spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor does not invade or spread. Causes The cause of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is unknown. Risk Factors A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. Frequent and accumulating exposure to certain types of chemicals (herbicides, pesticides, benzene) History of chemotherapy or radiation therapy Infections involving the immune system, such as HIV/AIDS and Epstein-Barr virus Sex: Male Symptoms Symptoms include: Chest pain or shortness of breath Constant fatigue Itchy skin, especially on the legs and feet Night sweats Painless swelling of the neck, underarm, groin, or any other lymph node bearing regions of the body Reddened patches on the skin Unexplained fever Unexplained weight loss Diagnosis The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. In particular, the doctor will carefully examine your lymph nodes. Most enlarged or swollen lymph nodes result from infection, not lymphomas. If infection is suspected, you may be given medication and told to return for re-examination. If swelling persists, your doctor may order a lymph node biopsy. The biopsy results will show whether there is cancer, and if so, the type of cancer that is present. Treatment Treatments for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma depend on the stage of the cancer. Treatments include: Chemotherapy – the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be given in many forms including: pill, injection, and via a catheter. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body killing mostly cancer cells, but also some healthy cells. External Radiation Therapy – radiation directed at the tumor from a source outside the body to kill the cancer cells. Bone Marrow Transplantation – bone marrow is removed, treated, and frozen. Large doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy are then applied to kill the cancer cells. After treatment, the bone marrow is replaced via a vein. Transplanted bone marrow may be marrow of the patient's that was treated to remove cancer cells or marrow from a healthy donor. Peripheral Stem Cell Transplantation (PSCT) – stem cells (very immature cells that produce blood cells) are removed from circulating blood before chemotherapy or radiation treatment, and then replaced after treatment. Biological Therapy – medications or substances made by the body to increase or restore the body's natural defenses against cancer. Also called biological response modifier (BRM) therapy. Prevention There are no guidelines for preventing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. To reduce your risk, avoid exposure to chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides, and benzene. Last reviewed: April 2004 by Seth Scholer, MD.