What is lymphoma?

There are several different types of blood cancers. About half of all blood cancers are lymphomas. Lymphoma is cancer in the lymph system. The lymph system is part of the immune system that fights off illnesses and infections. It also helps control the flow of fluids in the body.

 

Lymphoma is not one type of cancer. It is a group of many types.

 

Hodgkin lymphoma is one type. It was named after the doctor who discovered it. All other lymphomas are called non-Hodgkin lymphomas. There are more than 60 types of non-Hodgkin lymphomas.

 

What’s the difference?

Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphomas affect lymphocytes, which are cells in the lymphatic system. Doctors can tell which type of lymphoma a person has by looking at their cells under a microscope.

 

Hodgkin lymphoma has a special cell with two centers, or nuclei. These are known as Reed-Sternberg cells, and they only occur in people with Hodgkin lymphoma.

 

Similar signs

Even though there are different types of lymphoma, the signs look alike. Some signs include:

•  A painless lump in the neck, armpit or groin

•  Excessive sweating

•  Fever

•  Trouble breathing

•  Weight loss

•  No appetite

•  Feeling weak

•  Itching

 

Know the risk

Lymphoma can attack almost any area of the body. Often its symptoms are hard to spot, or they may be blamed on other health issues. That’s why it’s good to know if you’re at a higher risk of getting lymphoma. Risk factors include:

•  Having a close relative with lymphoma

•  Previously being exposed to radiation or chemotherapy

•  Long-term exposure to chemicals

•  Having a weakened immune system

 

Talk to your doctor

There is no surefire way to prevent lymphoma. However, you can get regular checkups and talk to your doctor about your health. Ask them about your risk of cancer and ways you can lead the healthiest life possible. If you notice changes in your health or symptoms, tell them.

 

Sources: American Cancer Society, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

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