Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma’s are a large group of cancers of lymphocytes (white blood cells). Non-Hodgkin lymphomas can occur at any age and are often marked by lymph nodes that are larger than normal, fever, and weight loss. There are many different types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Lymph is clear fluid which carries wastes drained from the circulatory and immune systems. Lymph nodes are clusters of small sacs that are found in the neck, under the armpits, in the groin. The primary function of the lymphatic system is to filter lymph and blood and to help fight infections via the production of lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell).
Lymphoma is a term for tumours, which are usually malignant, derived from lymphocytes and arise in the lymph nodes or other lymphoid tissues (lymph vessels, thymus, tonsils, bone marrow spleen). Malignant tumours are cancerous and have the ability to metastasize (spread) to other areas/ organs of the body. They develop due to lymphocytes undergoing mutation (cellular disregulation and division), proliferation and this growth enlarges the lymph node eventually causing an abnormal tumour. A lymph node may be the primary site for the cancer or it may be a secondary (metastic) cancer which has travelled from another organ and lodged into the lymph node. Some risk factors for lymphomas are age (most common over the age of 60), lowered immunity (reoccurring infections due to virus’, parasites or bacteria), family history and chemical exposure (pesticides).
Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma can essentially be asymptomatic in the beginning and often the first sign of lymphoma is a painless swelling (pea-sized) of any one of the lymph nodes, fevers, chills, night sweats, lack of energy and weight loss. These symptoms may be confused or mistaken for the flu or glandular fever and the differential diagnosis is that the symptoms do not subside but continue on after two weeks or months or even years. Non-Hodgkin lymphomas are medically treated by combinations of chemotherapy, monoclonal antibodies, immunotherapy, radiation and/or hematopoetic stem cell transplantation.