Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system helps protect us from infection and disease. It is part of the body’s immune system.
There are many types of lymphoma. Different types develop and are treated in different ways. A doctor can identify the type of lymphoma by collecting some lymphoma cells and testing them in a laboratory.
The two main sub-types are:
- Hodgkin lymphoma
- Non-hodgkin lymphoma (NHL)
Only about 1 in 5 of all lymphomas diagnosed (20%) are Hodgkin lymphoma. Around 1,700 people are diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in the UK every year.
There are many types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
For more information on the types of lymphoma, please follow this link.
Am I at risk?
In many cases, experts do not know exactly what causes lymphoma. However, some things may increase the risk of developing it. These are called risk factors.
It is important to remember that having these risk factors does not mean you will get lymphoma. Many people affected by lymphoma do not have any risk factors.
Often experts do not know what causes Hodgkin lymphoma. But some things may increase the risk of developing it:
- Age – Hodgkin lymphoma is more common in people over 70 years of age, but it can happen at any age. It is one of the most common cancers in people in their teens, and early 20’s.
- Gender– Lymphoma is slightly more common in men than in women.
- A weakened immune system
- Previous non-Hodgkin lymphoma
- Having a close relative with lymphoma
For more information on the causes and risk factors of Hodgkin lymphoma, please follow this link.
For most people with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cause is never found. But there are factors that are known to increase the risk of developing it:
- A weakened immune system
- Auto-immune disease
- A previous cancer
- Having a close relative with non-Hodgkin lymphoma
For more information on the causes and risk factors of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, please follow this link.
Symptoms of Lymphoma
The most common early symptom of lymphoma is a painless swelling in the lymph nodes in one area of the body, such as the neck, armpit or groin.
Lymphoma can also cause symptoms which affect the whole body, including:
- heavy, drenching night sweats (these can also happen during the day)
- high temperatures that come and go without any obvious cause
- unexplained weight loss
- itching of the skin all over the body that does not go away.
Some people have other lymphoma symptoms, depending on where the lymphoma is in their body. These local symptoms may include:
- a cough, difficulty swallowing or breathlessness, if the lymphoma is in the chest area
- indigestion, tummy pain or weight loss, if the lymphoma is in the stomach or bowel
- pain – this is not common but may be caused by swollen lymph nodes pressing on tissue in a part of the body such as the back or tummy (abdomen). In some people with Hodgkin lymphoma swollen lymph nodes may ache or they may feel painful soon after drinking alcohol.
Lymphoma can spread to the bone marrow. This is more common with non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) but can happen with Hodgkin lymphoma too. If lymphoma spreads to the bone marrow it can reduce the number of blood cells. This can cause:
- tiredness, if you do not have enough red blood cells
- difficulty fighting infections, if you do not have enough white blood cells
- bruising or bleeding, if you do not have enough blood-clotting cells, called platelets.
Some people do not have any of these symptoms and the lymphoma is found during tests for other conditions.
For more information from Macmillan regarding lymphoma, please follow this link.
For more information from Cancer Research UK regarding lymphoma, please follow this link.
Lymphoma Action have some useful information regarding lymphoma, and their website can be accessed by following this link.