Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma: Symptoms and Treatment

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Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL) is one of the most common forms of cancer (about 4%). According to the American Cancer Society’s 2018 estimated statistics, about 74,680 people will be diagnosed with NHL, and about almost 20,000 deaths will result from it.

Causes of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Although it is unclear what causes non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, it has been linked with certain risk factors:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Race/ethnicity/geography (higher in whites and in the U.S. and Europe)
  • Exposure to certain chemicals and drugs
  • Radiation exposure
  • Having a weakened immune system
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Certain infections
  • Body weight/diet
  • Breast implants

Symptoms of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Sweats/chills
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Feeling full after a small amount of food
  • Chest pain/pressure
  • Cough/shortness of breath
  • Severe/frequent infections
  • Easy bruising/bleeding
  • Itchy skin

Other signs/symptoms not listed above are specific to certain parts of the body where the lymphoma is present:

  • Brain
  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Double vision
  • Facial numbness
  • Trouble speaking

Diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

  • Medical history/physical exam
  • Biopsy
  • Imaging tests
  • Blood tests
  • Tests of heart/lung function

Staging of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

The diagnostic tests not only help in making the diagnosis but also in determining the stage of cancer.

Stage I: The lymphoma is only in one lymph node area or lymphoid organ. OR The cancer is only in one area of a single organ outside the lymph system.

Stage II: The lymphoma is in two or more groups of lymph nodes on the same side of the diaphragm. OR It is in a group of lymph nodes and in one area of a nearby organ. It may also affect other groups of lymph nodes on the same side of the diaphragm.

Stage III:The lymphoma is in lymph node areas above AND below the diaphragm. OR It is in lymph nodes above the diaphragm and in the spleen.

Stage IV: The lymphoma has spread widely into at least one organ outside the lymph system (bone marrow, liver, lung).

Treatment of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Treatments options include the following:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Stem cell transplant
  • Surgery (rare)

Prevention of Hodgkin Lymphoma

Since the cause is still unknown, it is not possible to prevent NHL.What you can do to lower your risk is maintain a healthy immune system and avoid certain infections.