The lymphatic system is a network of thin tubular vessels that branches out to almost all parts of the body. Scattered in between these vessels are lymph nodes. The job of the lymphatic system is to fight infection and disease. Cancer involving the lymphatic system is called lymphoma. Non-Hodgkins is one of two main types of lymphoma with Hodgkins lymphoma (or Hodgkins disease) being the other.
Risk factors for developing lymphoma are unknown. However, doctors believe immune system problems as well as age may increase a person’s chance of developing this disease.
The signs and symptoms of lymphoma are general and may also be associated with other, noncancerous conditions. Talk to your doctor about any of these problems.
Lymphoma is not just one disease. Rather, it is more than 30 types of cancer that act differently and may need special treatment. To see if you have lymphoma and what kind it is, your doctor may order some or all of the following tests.
The stage of cancer is a term used to describe its size and whether it has spread. Knowing this helps doctors plan the best treatment.
Stage I: Single lymph node or non-lymph node region is affected.
Stage II: Two or more lymph node or non-lymph node regions are affected on the same side of the diaphragm (the muscle under the lungs).
Stage III: Lymph node or non-lymph node regions above and below the diaphragm are affected.
Stage IV: The cancer has spread outside the lymph nodes to organs such as the liver, bones or lungs. Stage IV can also refer to a tumor in another organ and/or tumor in distant lymph nodes.
Treatment options depend on the type of lymphoma you have, the stage of the lymphoma and your overall health. Treatment may include radiation therapy or chemo-therapy, either alone or in combination. Other treatments include watchful waiting and biologic therapy. It may help to talk to several cancer specialists before deciding on the best course of treatment for you, your cancer and your lifestyle
Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, is the careful use of radiation to safely and effectively kill cancer cells while avoiding nearby healthy tissue.
External beam radiation therapy is a series of daily outpatient treatments to accurately deliver radiation to the cancer cells.
Also called immunotherapy, biologic therapy works with your immune system to fight cancer. Biologic therapy is like chemotherapy. The difference is that chemotherapy attacks the cancer directly and biologic therapy helps your immune system better fight the disease
The side effects you may experience will depend on the part of the body being treated, the amount of radiation you are given, and whether or not you have received chemotherapy. Ask your doctor before treatment begins about possible side effects and how best to manage them. Most side effects go away once you finish treatment.