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Lymphomas are cancers that develop in the lymphatic system, a part of the
immune system that fights disease and infection. Cancer cells can spread to
the liver, spleen, bone marrow and other organs.
There are two types of lymphomas, which are distinguished by the type of
cell and how the cancer presents itself:
1. Hodgkin's lymphoma or Hodgkin's disease - tends to occur in people ages
15 to 35 or over 55.
2. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma - generally occurs in people ages 45 to 70.
In non-Hodgkin's disease, exposure to radiation and chemotherapy, certain
herbicides and insecticides, and HIV infection increase the risk.
Scientists have recently found that a type of bacteria called Helicobacter
pylori, which is known to cause stomach ulcers, also increases the risk of
lymphoma because the body's immune reaction to the infection causes it to
produce excess lymphocytes, a type of cell. This kind of lymphoma is more
common in white people and in men. Certain genetic diseases can increase
the risk in children.
In Hodgkin's disease, risk factors may include previous mononucleosis,
AIDS, organ transplants and congenital immune problems. It has not been
linked to a specific gene, diet or environmental factors.
Swollen lymph nodes, enlarged abdomen, coughing, shortness of breath,
unexplained weight loss, profuse sweating, severe itchiness, fever that
comes and goes, fatigue and decreased appetite are among the symptoms.
Treatment options depend on the grade and stage of the lymphoma, as well as
the type of cancer and location.
Surgery is rarely used as treatment, but it is often used to obtain tissue
samples to diagnose and classify the lymphoma.
Radiation and chemotherapy are the main lines of treatment.
Other developing treatments:
1. Interferon - a hormone-like protein that may shrink tumors.
2. Monoclonal antibodies - produced in the lab to attack lymphoma cells.
3. Stem cell transplantation - used for some patients who are either in
remission or have a relapse during or after treatment.
Most people with lymphoma have no known risk factors, and there is no way
to prevent their cancer from developing. However, infection from two known
risk factors, HIV and Helicobacter pylori, may be preventable.
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