Lymphoma: diagnosis and treatment

What is lymphoma?

Lymphoma is a kind of blood cancer arising from white blood cells or lymphocytes. Normally the blood has three components I.e red cells which carry hemoglobin and oxygen, platelets which help in formation of blood clots and white blood cells that fight infections. Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cells that give us immunity and lymphoma is a cancer of these lymphocytes.

What are the signs and symptoms of lymphoma?

Lymphoma can present with very diverse symptoms and a high index of suspicion is required for timely diagnosis. Some of the common symptoms include recurring fever, weakness and fatigue, unexplained anemia, lump anywhere in the body especially enlargement of lymph nodes in the neck, groin or underarms, drenching night sweats and unintentional weight loss. It can occur across all age groups from childhood to elderly.

How is lymphoma diagnosed?

In patients with suspected lymphoma a lymph node biopsy is performed to identify the type of disease. Lymphoma can be broadly classified into Hodgkin and Non- Hodgkin lymphoma and this distinction can only be made on the biopsy specimen by the pathologist. The treatment plan varies according to the type of lymphoma. Other important investigations include a whole body PET- CT for the extent of disease and internal organ involvement and in some instances a bone marrow examination is also required.

What are the treatment options for lymphoma?

Lymphomas are managed medically with use of chemotherapy and immunotherapy given mostly in combination. Radiation may be required in some cases. In certain rare scenarios a bone marrow transplant is also recommended as part of treatment. The treatment for lymphoma is very advanced with high cure rates and off late many sophisticated treatment modalities including oral pills have changed the landscape for treatment of lymphoma.

Dr. Nivedita Dhingra
Department of Hemato - Oncology(BMT)
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