Lymphoma is cancer that begins in cells of the lymph system. The lymph system is part of the immune system, which helps the body fight infection and disease. Because lymph tissue is found all through the body, lymphoma can begin almost anywhere. The two main types of lymphoma are Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). These can occur in both children and adults.
Symptoms of Lymphoma
Symptoms of lymphoma include painless swelling in a lymph node, most commonly in the neck or armpits, but the swelling can occur in other parts of the body including the groin (that may cause swelling in the legs or ankles) or the abdomen (that can cause cramping and bloating). Some patients with lymphoma notice no swelling at all while others may complain of night sweats, weight loss, chills, a lack of energy, or itching. There is usually no pain involved, especially when the lymphoma is in the early stage of development. Most people who have nonspecific complaints such as these will not have lymphoma. However, it is important that any person who has symptoms that persist see a doctor to confirm that no lymphoma or serious illness is present.
Diagnosis of Lymphoma
Tests and procedures used to diagnosis lymphoma include a thorough physical examination, blood tests, imaging tests, and bone marrow testing.
Treatment of Lymphoma
Treatment depends on the type and stage of lymphoma, overall health, and preferences. The goal of treatment is to destroy as many cancer cells as possible and bring the disease into remission. Minor surgery may be done to remove all or part of an enlarged lymph node for testing. Because some forms of lymphoma are very slow growing, a patient and doctor may take an active surveillance (“watch and wait”) approach and treat when lymphoma causes signs and symptoms that interfere with daily activities. Until then, periodic tests may be performed to monitor the lymphoma. Treatments include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, bone marrow transplant and specialized drug treatments.
Role of Immune Globulin Therapy
Immune globulins are found naturally in the body and help fight infection. Some patients with lymphoma may have low levels of antibodies, which may cause recurrent infections, and may benefit from replacement immune globulins. Immune globulin is extracted from a large pool of human plasma and contains all the important antibodies present in the normal population. Immune globulin therapy can be administered into the blood stream intravenously (IVIG) or under the skin subcutaneously (SCIG).
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