What is a Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL)?
Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is the cancer of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is made up of lymph nodes and certain organs such as the spleen, thymus, bone marrow, etc. The lymph nodes consist of lymphocytes which are responsible for fighting against infections.
It includes all types of lymphomas except the Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is different in many aspects as compared to the Hodgkin’s lymphoma. NHL is most commonly found in the adults and it starts in the lymph and lymph nodes.
The symptoms of NHL mostly correspond with other types of blood cancers. These include fever, fatigue, night sweats, loss of appetite, weakness, chest pain etc. One of the important sign that rings a bell for the physician that something is wrong is “swollen Lymph Nodes”.
Types of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma:
There are several different ways NHL can be classified. World Health Organisation (WHO) has laid down the guidelines to classify the NHL, which is as follows:
Type of lymphocyte involved:
How the Lymphoma appears under a Microscope
The Chromosomal features of the Lymphoma
The presence of proteins on the surface of cells.
How is Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diagnosed?
The diagnosis for any disease is always started with a complete and thorough family and medical history. Confirmatory diagnosis of NHL is important as it determines the type of treatment the patient requires.
The following are some of the common diagnostic tests that are done to detect NHL:
- Physical examination to check for swollen lymph nodes in neck, underarms, and groin; also to check swollen liver/spleen.
- Complete blood counts.
- Bone Marrow Biopsy and Aspiration.
- Imaging tests such as CT scan, MRI, and PET scan.
- Lymph node biopsy.
What is the treatment of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma?
As we already know the treatment of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma depends upon the diagnosis of the disease. The treatment regime is different for B-cell and T-cell lymphoma, or an intensive or slow growing (indolent) lymphoma etc.
In some cases, the treatment isn’t even necessary. The slow-growing lymphomas are usually managed using a “wait-and-see approach”. The patient is monitored regularly by the doctor.
If the lymphoma is aggressive, the following treatment approaches can be used:
It involves using certain chemicals and drugs which tend to kill the excessive lymphocytes to bring their level down to normal. Chemotherapy for the treatment of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is either given orally or intravenously.
Mostly the chemotherapeutic agents cannot differentiate between the healthy cells and the cancer cells. The most common side effects include nausea/vomiting, heart & lung damage, hair loss etc.
High-frequency radiation is used to kill the cancer cells. The beams are directed towards specific regions of the body. The radiation targets the specific lymph nodes for the treatment of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Certain side-effects include rashes and redness of the skin, hair loss, lung damage, heart disease, thyroid damage or stroke. Sometimes, this causes the development of other types of cancers such as breast or lung cancer.
Bone Marrow Therapy:
In this type of treatment of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, the diseased bone marrow is replaced with healthy bone marrow. The new bone marrow resumes the function of producing new, mature cells. But it involves high risk of infection in the recipient.
The doctor is the best source of information for all kinds of patient queries and anxieties during the treatment of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
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