Monday, January 24

What is lymphoma and how can it be detected?

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide.

Almost 10 million people lost their lives in 2020 from this disease in all its variants, reports the World Health Organization.

The type of cancer that caused the most deaths last year was lung with 1.8 million, but the one that registered the highest number of cases was breast cancer, with 2.26 million households.

But there is a class of blood cancer that is on the rise and is the most common in adults: lymphoma.

This September 15, World Lymphoma Awareness Day, we consulted specialists to find out what this cancer is about and how to detect it.

What is lymphoma

There are three main groups of blood cancers: leukemia, myeloma, and lymphoma.

The latter, at the same time, is divided into two main types: Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

It is so called because in 1832 it was discovered by the British pathologist Thomas Hodgkin (1798-1866) after analyzing several people with symptoms of cancer that affected the lymph nodes.

Portrait of Thomas Hodgkin.
Retrato de Thomas Hodgkin. (Foto: GUY’S HOSPITAL REPORTS)

It was initially called “Hodgkin’s disease” but in the late 20th century it changed its name to “Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”

As explained by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Association of the United States, this happened because subsequent research revealed that the disease is a consequence of a lesion in the DNA of a lymphocyte, which is a type of white blood cell, responsible for defending ourselves against infections. .

The change in the lymphocyte turns it into a lymphoma cell. These clump together and form masses of cells, which are tumors, and usually cluster in the lymph nodes or in other parts of the body.

“Let’s assume that the body is like a house and leukemia affects the whole house, while lymphoma affects one room. In a single place, a part of the body, which are the lymph nodes, ”Dr. Carla Casulo, director of the Lymphoma Service Program at the Wilmot Cancer Institute of the University of Rochester in New York, tells BBC Mundo.

Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Hodgkin lymphoma spreads in an orderly manner from one group of lymph nodes to others, while non-Hodgkin lymphoma spreads through the lymphatic system in a disorderly way, explains the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) .

A doctor checks the nodes of an older man.

Around the world, more than 735,000 people are diagnosed with the disease each yearaccording to data from the Lymphoma Coalition, a global network of some 80 organizations in more than 50 countries that provides information and support to patients with lymphoma.

These numbers, backed by the Global Cancer Observatory (Globocan), show that lymphoma is the most common blood cancer disease in adults.

“Clearly, the highest percentage of cases is in non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas,” says surgeon oncologist Leandro Nikisch, a member of the Argentine Association of Surgery.

“And they are more than 80 subtypes. There are many different tumors and with the advent of molecular analysis and other studies, more and more characteristics of lymphomas that differ from each other are being discovered ”, he added to BBC Mundo.

White blood cells illustration.

Specialists highlight that cases of certain types of lymphomas are on the rise, such as chronic lymphatic leukemia (CLL).

“CLL is a lymphoma, which we call lymphoma-leukemia which is very common and we are seeing that, because people are doing more studies for different reasons that do not have to do with cancer, they are being accidentally diagnosed”, exemplifies Casulo .

“In that sense, we are seeing more cases, but even so, when we analyze it at a general level, (lymphoma) continues to be among the number nine or ten of the most common types of cancer. Organ cancers are still more frequent ”, clarifies the doctor.

How to detect it

Symptoms include Swelling of the lymph nodes, especially in the part of the body where the lymphoma begins to grow.

Common areas where the lymph nodes can be palpated with the fingers are the groin, armpit, neck, behind the ears and the back of the head. But there are also lymph nodes in other areas of the body such as the thorax and abdomen.

A woman feels her armpit.

In addition to swollen glands, the symptoms of a lymphoma can be similar to those of other diseases, such as the flu and even Covid-19.

These include fever, night sweats, tiredness, cough, itching, and weight loss.

Can it be treated and cured?

Hodgkin lymphoma is one of the most curable types of cancer. So far the cause of most cases is not known.

It is also not possible to prevent it and you cannot get it from someone else. It is usually diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40 and becomes more common again after age 60.

A woman with a night sweat.

Meanwhile, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, having many types, the treatment depends on the characteristics.

“Happily, almost all lymphomas are treatable. There are very few that cannot be treated (…) but unfortunately it cannot be prevented because it is something spontaneous ”, clarifies doctor Carla Casulo.

“It is a slightly complicated disease because there are different lymphomas and some are aggressive and others are completely indolent,” he says.

Therefore, suspecting that something is wrong with the body, the usual recommendation is a doctor’s visit.

It may interest you:

They claim that a patient was cured of Hodgkin’s lymphoma thanks to the coronavirus

What type of cancer is lymphoma in the neck and what are its consequences?

The 8 most common types of cancer in children and adolescents that you should know

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