Lymphoma

Overview

Lymphoma, or non-Hodgkin lymphoma, is a form of cancer of the immune system called the lymph system which is the disease-fighting network spread throughout the body. In lymphoma, the tumors develop from lymphocytes — a type of white blood cell.
When these white blood cells, called T cells or B cells, become abnormal, the cell divides again and again, making more and more abnormal cells. In a healthy body, the lymphocytes go through a predictable life cycle—old lymphocytes die and the body creates new ones to replace them. However, in lymphoma since the lymphocytes don’t die and instead continue to grow and divide, an oversupply of lymphocytes crowds into the lymph nodes, eventually causing them to swell.

Although the exact cause of Lymphoma is not known, it usually begins in either the B cells or T cells. Most non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma arises from B cells, whichfight infection by producing antibodies that neutralise foreign invaders.

Lymphoma occurs less often in T cells, whichare involved in killing foreign invaders directly. Whether the Lymphoma occurs in the B cells or T cells is a crucial factor in determining treatment options.

The disease often spreads to other parts of the lymphatic systemincluding lymphatic vessels, tonsils, adenoids, spleen, thymus and bone marrow.

Some factors that may increase the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma include:

  • Medications that suppress the immune system.
  • Infection with certain viruses and bacteria such as HIV and Epstein-Barr virus. Bacteria linked to an increased risk of lymphoma include the ulcer-causing Helicobacter pylori.
  • Certain chemicals, such as those used to kill insects and weeds, may increase the risk of developing lymphoma.
  • Although Lymphoma is among the most common cancers in childhood, more than 95 percent of cases occur in adults, after the age of 60.

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