Non-Hodgkin lymphoma: everything you need to know

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma can cause very general symptoms, such as fever or weight loss.

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Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a type of cancer that begins in the cells of the lymphatic system , specifically lymphocytes. This type of cancer is named to differentiate it from the other group of lymphomas, Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The main difference between Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma is the shape and characteristics of the cells that make them up. However, when we talk about non-Hodgkin lymphoma, we are also referring to a group that presents different tumor subtypes.

According to the latest statistics, these tumors represent 4% of all cancers. An estimated 77,000 people have been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the past year, including adults and children.

Although it can occur at any age, the incidence increases after 65 years. In this article, we explain everything you need to know about non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

What is non-Hodgkin lymphoma?

A non-Hodgkin lymphoma, as we have mentioned, is a cancer that originates from lymphocytes . Lymphocytes are cells of the immune system that help fight infections and other attacks that occur in our body.

All lymphomas can start anywhere in the body where there is lymphatic tissue . This tissue is found mainly in the lymph nodes and in the bone marrow, but we also find it in the thymus, in the digestive tract, etc.

The truth is that within non-Hodgkin lymphoma we include many different tumor subtypes. The most widely used classification was approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) . They are classified according to the type of cell from which they originate, but also by their appearance or their cellular markers.

As we have pointed out, this cancer has a higher incidence as age increases . However, there are also many cases in childhood and adolescence. Furthermore, although there is a slight predominance in men, it affects both sexes practically equally.

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What symptoms can it produce?

The truth is that a non-Hodgkin lymphoma can be difficult to diagnose because, when it produces symptoms, they are very general. There are not many specific signs of this type of cancer. However, there are certain warning signs that can be suspicious.

It is frequent that the area where it originated increases in size, so it is important to know the lymphatic system. It may be a lump in the groin or neck , or the liver or spleen is palpable.

In addition, there is usually fever, weight loss and tiredness . When the tumor is somewhere localized, symptoms of compression of another organ or structure may occur. For example, when the spleen grows, it usually causes back pain.

Similarly, if the lymphoma is in the chest, it can cause coughing or difficulty breathing. For this reason, it is always important to carry out complete physical examinations and the necessary tests.

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How is non-Hodgkin lymphoma treated?

To treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma there are many factors to consider. Above all, it depends on whether it is slow growing or fast growing. Those that grow slowly tend to have a better prognosis.

If the tumor is diagnosed when it is still localized and is not aggressive, treatment is usually based on radiation therapy . However, when it is fast growing, combination chemotherapy is often used.

The truth is that this type of cancer has a survival of over 60% at 5 years , including its different subtypes. However, it is very important that the diagnosis is made early. Therefore, you should always consult a doctor at any alarm sign.


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