Lymphoma is the umbrella term for cancers of the lymphatic system – this system is part of the immune system in the body. There are a number of different types of lymphoma generally falling into one of two categories – Hodgkin or non-Hodgkin. The cause of lymphoma, at present, is unknown, despite that fact that it is the most common blood cancer in the UK, the incidence of lymphoma appears to be consistently rising, – and it is not yet known why this is. The disease is most common in the under 30s or over 55s but can affect anyone at any age.
Lymphoma causes the white blood cells in the body to behave in an abnormal way – they do not die off as they should and may divide abnormally. These abnormal cells may then collect in the lymph nodes and continue to enlarge due to the formation of tumours. Lymphoma may affect tissue function and can affect lymph nodes in any part of the body as well as other organs of the lymphatic system – including the spleen and bone marrow; it may also affect the skin, the liver, or the stomach.
Signs and symptoms
There are a wide variety of
– most of which are easily confused with symptoms caused by other, less dangerous, medical conditions. The most common
– which could be regarded as a classic symptom consists of painless lumps or swelling in the neck, armpit, or groin. Whilst these lumps, which are in fact enlarged lymph nodes, are a common symptom of the condition, and may be the only one experienced by some individuals, they are not always a
Other lymphoma symptoms included the following, remember, it is essential that anyone concerned about any or all of these general symptoms consults their medical practitioner.
- Excessive sweating – this may be more pronounced during the night hours and has no apparent cause
- Unexplained and sudden weight loss – this may be as much as fifteen pounds over just few weeks
- Loss of appetite – this will lead to further weight loss and is a common symptom as the lymphoma grows and spreads
- Extreme fatigue and tiredness, especially for no apparent reason
- Persistent coughing and breathlessness
- Persistent itching as a result of secretions from the lymphoma cells
- Unexplained fever – a continuous or intermittent fever that appears unrelated to any existing medical condition should be the subject of further investigation. Swollen lymph nodes are easily mistaken as a symptom of an underlying infection, particularly in the early stages of lymphoma, it is therefore essential that any ongoing swelling or fever be referred to your medical practitioner.
- Generalised feeling of weakness caused by the growth of cancer cells depleting the body of its healthy cells
- Swelling – should the lymphoma become extremely enlarged it may block the flow of lymph fluid resulting in the swelling of the affected parts of the body and increase the feeling of breathlessness
- Lymphoma may affect other organs and cause varying symptoms such as abdominal pain or painful headaches.
Any individual who is concerned that what they are experiencing are lymphoma symptoms should seek the advice of their medical practitioner in order to see if further investigative tests are required and to put their mind at rest.