Lymphoma is a cancer that affects the lymphatic system of the body, an integral part of the human immune system. This cancer develops when the white blood cells, called lymphocytes, present in the immune system grow uncontrolled. These lymphocytes are responsible for producing antibodies for fighting diseases and regulating the immune system.
Most of the lymphoma signs and symptoms are similar to those of some less serious diseases, such as HIV, Epstein-Barr virus, rheumatoid arthritis, sarcoidosis, celiac disease, and hyperthyroidism.
Thus, it is recommended to visit the doctor if the patient witnesses any of the symptoms associated with lymphoma. The doctor would conduct a physical examination and also order some tests to arrive at a conclusive diagnosis.
Increasing age is a common risk factor for lymphoma and is prevalent among people over the age of 65. Also, those with a weaker immune system and certain inherited genetic conditions, such as ataxia-telangiectasia and Bloom syndrome, are at high risk of developing lymphoma.
While non-Hodgkin's lymphoma affects people who are between the ages of 60 and 80, Hodgkin's lymphoma mainly affects people who are either above 65 years old or between 20 and 30.
Lymphoma cancer symptoms can be categorized into Hodgkin's lymphoma symptoms and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma symptoms.
Hodgkin's lymphoma symptoms include swollen lymph nodes, night sweats, fever, weight loss, itching, coughing, and pain in the affected lymph nodes. The non-Hodgkin's lymphoma symptoms, in addition to these above-mentioned symptoms, also include chest pain, abdominal pain, skin lesions, and neurological issues.
Here are some of the most common lymphoma symptoms affecting patients:
Swollen lymph nodes are considered to be one of the most common signs of lymphoma. These lymph nodes are bean-shaped, small organs present throughout our body.
These enlarged or swollen lymph nodes, which feel like firm lumps, are present in the groin region, armpits, and neck.
Fatigue is also one of the most common lymphoma signs and symptoms, and it should not be ignored. Lymphoma leads to inflammation of the tissues and organs, resulting in fatigue even after doing little tasks.
Though fatigue is one of the most common lymphoma symptoms, it can be caused by many other reasons as well, for example, anemia.
Cancerous cells utilize a lot of energy to grow and multiply, and in return, the human body also uses energy to fight these cells. This overuse of energy causes weight loss, which is also counted among the early symptoms of lymphoma.
Night sweats are basically excessive sweating episodes that happen while sleeping. The sweating can even leave your bedsheets and clothes soaked. The real reason why lymphoma causes night sweating is not really known, but experts believe that this is a body reaction to certain chemicals released by cancerous cells.
A low-grade fever could also be one of the signs of lymphoma; however, this may not be consistent. Also, there may be other lymphoma symptoms, such as night sweats and unexplained weight loss, accompanying the fever.
The reason why lymphoma leads to fever is the production of cytokines by the cancerous cells.
Itchy skin is a common symptom of Hodgkin's lymphoma and is also one of the most common skin lymphoma symptoms. Lymphoma can cause itching in the skin around the affected lymph nodes, lower legs, and skin lymphoma patches.
As cancerous cells use excess body energy, the patient may often feel fatigued and have a loss of appetite, along with nausea or vomiting.
As lymphoma affects the lymph nodes in the chest, it can create pressure on the lungs or airways. This leads to shortness of breath, coughing, and chest pain.
As this cancer affects the lymph nodes in the abdomen or the lymphatic tissues present in the spleen or liver, it can lead to lymphoma symptoms, such as stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting.
Lymphoma is known to affect the lymphatic system, an important part of the immune system responsible for fighting all kinds of infections. Thus, patients with lymphoma may feel pain in the affected body parts, such as the bones, chest, or stomach.
When the white blood cells of the lymphatic system undergo mutation and lead to the formation of cancerous cells, it is referred to as lymphoma. However, the exact causes of these mutations leading to lymphoma are not known.
But there are some conditions or situations that can increase an individual's risk of getting lymphoma. The following are some of the possible lymphoma causes or risk factors:
Older age is counted among the common risk factors for lymphoma, as it usually affects people who are between the ages of 60 and 80.
Though gender is not a potential cause of lymphoma, gender differences are associated with the occurrence of lymphoma. For example, males are more likely to get Hodgkin's lymphoma, while females have a higher chance of developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
A weakened immune system can also be a possible cause of lymphoma cancer. As lymphoma affects the body's ability to fight infections, a compromised immune system can increase the risk of developing lymphoma.
Certain auto-immune disorders that lead to the body attacking its own immune system can also be counted among potential lymphoma reasons. These include Sjögren's syndrome, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and rheumatoid arthritis.
Patients suffering from certain infections may also have a higher risk of developing lymphoma. These infections include the Helicobacter pylori infection and the Epstein-Barr virus.
Individuals with a close family member, such as a parent, sister, child, or brother, suffering from lymphoma have a slightly higher risk of developing this cancer. Minor inherited genetic changes can be the reason for this increased risk.
A personal history of lymphoma can substantially increase the risk of developing lymphoma again, known as recurrent lymphoma.
Exposure to some chemicals, toxins, and pesticides can also be considered potential lymphoma causes. However, the relationship between these chemical exposures and the risk of developing lymphoma is still under study.
Radiation exposure due to cancer treatments or nuclear exposure has also been linked to an increased risk of developing lymphoma.
If you experience any of the lymphoma symptoms mentioned above or identify with the possible lymphoma causes or risk factors, it is advisable to see an oncologist. The oncologist would then perform a physical exam or other tests, such as imaging tests or blood tests, to diagnose lymphoma.
To conclude, it can be stated that lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system or lymphatic system, is often a result of mutations in the DNA of the lymphatic cells. The lymphoma symptoms can differ as per the spread or type of the cancer.