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What is Lymphoma?

 What is Lymphoma? 

Lymphoma is simply defined as a type of cancer in the lymph system. British physician Thomas Hodgkin was the first to publish initial descriptions of the condition in 1832. Thus, the specific type of lymphoma he described (Hodgkin’s lymphoma) was appropriately named after him. After his initial description, many other studies looked at several other forms or types of the cancerous disease.

A cancer appears when several of our bodies’ cells begin behaving abnormally. The body is comprised of various kinds of cells found in different organs like the nerves of blood. At times, normal cells cease getting usual biological signals that make them stop growing. 

When that happens, the cells abnormally continue to multiply and grow. This is the formation of cancer cells. When the cancer cells grow, the affected organ stops working normally. Several of the cancer cells also start to break off from the original site, spreading into many other body parts and affecting many other organs.

There are two main types of lymphoma:

  1. Hodgkin lymphoma (HL): This type of lymphoma is characterized by the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells, large abnormal cells found in the lymph nodes. Hodgkin lymphoma is relatively rare compared to non-Hodgkin lymphoma and tends to affect people in two age groups, young adults (usually between 15 and 40 years old) and older adults (usually over the age of 55).
  2. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL): This is a more common type of lymphoma and includes a large group of lymphomas that do not have Reed-Sternberg cells. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma can occur at any age and can arise from different types of lymphocytes.

The lymph system comprises an interconnected network with thin nodes and tubes carrying white blood cells. Such cells are responsible for fighting off infections. This way, they are vitally significant to the body’s overall well-being. When a lymphocyte (a specific kind of white blood cell) in the lymph system starts to become cancerous, it would tend to multiply and grow leading to formation of lymphoma. 

Which part of the body is usually affected by lymphoma? The cancer could affect any part of the lymph system. Usually, patients initially notice abnormal enlargement of the lymph nodes, specifically in the areas of the groin, the neck, and the armpits. 

However, lymphoma could also manifest in several other organs of the body. This is because minimal amounts of lymph tissue pass into practically every organ in the body as white blood cells reach out to different areas to perform control of infections. 

This type of cancer is currently the most usual form of blood cancer or hematological malignancy especially in the developed countries. Lymphoma comprises about 5.3% of overall forms of cancers in the United States alone. It comprises of up to 55.6% of blood cancers diagnosed. 

According to data released by the US National Institute of Health, Hodgkin’s lymphoma is accounting for about 1% of total cases of cancer across the country. Patients with HIV infection and exposure to certain medications and drugs have higher incidences of lymphoma for obvious reasons. 

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