What is Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma?

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma glands

Paul Garland’s photo

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a cancer that affects the cells in the immune system. These cells, called lymphocytes, can be found in and around the tissues and lymph nodes. There is also a Hodgkin Lymphoma named after Dr. Thomas Hodgkin. Both versions of this cancer are different from one another and react differently to treatments. The information here is only regarding non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Signs of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Because non-Hodgkin’s can affect many parts of the body it usually goes undetected until a large lump is detected. Some symptoms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma may include the following symptoms.

  • Lymph nodes that have become enlarged
  • Swollen belly or abdomen
  • Pain or pressure in your chest
  • Persistent fever
  • Cough or shortness of breath
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Night sweats that are not attributed to menopause

Treatment Options

In order for treatment to be determined, a definite diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma must be confirmed. A physical exam will be the first thing a doctor will do plus go over your family history to see if this type of cancer runs in your family. If your doctor suspects you may have non-Hodgkin’s he may order a biopsy. Blood tests, chest x-rays, CT scans and MRIs may also be used to test your lymph nodes for cancer. Here are some treatment options that are effective in treating non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

  • Chemotherapy uses a host of anti-cancer medications that are either injected or taken orally. These drugs are able to get directly into the bloodstream and get to all areas of the body. Because lymphoma can spread throughout the body this is an effective treatment.
  • Radiation therapy performed as external beam radiation is a more intense form of getting an x-ray. The treatments themselves are fairly quick but in order to be effective a regimen of several weeks must be implemented.
  • Immunotherapy is a more natural treatment used to eliminate non-Hodgkin’s. Man-made antibodies are administered to boost the body’s immune system. This type of therapy can kill the cancer cells or at least slow down their growth.
  • Stem cell transplants are helpful for patients who are in remission or have a relapse of their lymphoma. When stem cell transplants are used, doctors are able to increase the level of chemotherapy and radiation than normal. A high dose of chemotherapy will destroy the bone marrow but the use of stem cells increases the blood flow and they can even create new blood cells.