Lymphomia cancer (whether Hotchkins, non-Hodgkins, Burkitts or other type) is a canser in the lymphocytes. Lymphoma has much like most cancers an explosive growth of cells that is totally out of control, in this case the affected cells are the lymphocytes.
The amount of cells grow too much due to either too fast growth, or to slow dying out in cases of non-Hodgins (Hodgekins) limphomas. Larger than normal lymph nodes are one of the most commonly seen signs of lymphomia cancer symptoms.
The lymphocyte cells that are affected by the cancer are located chiefly in the lymph nodes and when cellular growth rate gets out of control, these lymph nodes start to swell up. But the lymphocytes are transported arount to places in the entire body so lymphoma - or concentration of abnormally growing lymphocytes - may grow in other places outside of the lymph nodes. It can often be seen in the spleen or sometimes the bonemarrow, or in the liver. Sometimes also in the stomach. There are also disease cases, not often seen though, where this particular form of cancer form can develop in the brain. Lymphoma canser (limphoma cancer) can grow in almost any place in the body and if the disease is not treated in its early stages, it is not uncommon to see the cancer spreading around to more than one place.
With the lymph (the liquid in the lymph node system) being transported around to the whole body, lymphoma belongs to the class of diseases that can affect anywhere in the whole body as opposed to a local disease affecting only the lymph nodes themselves. Diseases with this capacity are called systemic.
Several symptoms of lymphoma signs seen in in a patient suffering from this type of cancer, will have originated from the swelling of the lymph nodes, coming from the growth of the abnormally affected lymphocytes. Exactly what symptoms and signs that will develop depends on the precise loaction of the swelling, something that can vary. The affected lymphocytes are not able to function normally anymore in their capacity as a vital part of the immune defence system and a cancer patient left untreated for too long, will for that reason have a higher risk of acquiring infections.
Non-Hodgekin limphoma (non-Hodgkins or in some cases named non-Hodgins) is one of the two normal classes of the lymphoma canser disease (the other typical class is the group of Hodgkins disease cancers). When examining cells in a patient suffering from non-Hodgin lymphomia, they will appear different and behave in another manner, when compared to those in a patients suffering from Hodgkins disease.
It is of great importance to diagnose the exact type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the patient, the speed of progression, the exact location in the body and how far the cancer has spread so far. In order to determine all this, the cancer form is then further subdivided into groups:
Firstly the actual stage of the NHL. Where the cancer is situated in the body, how much it has already spread (if any spread at all). The different NHL stages are called I, II, III and IV. The division into these stages is made from the patients medical history and a physical examination done in conjunction with other tests. The other tests can be X-ray diagnose or the use of computer (or positron) tomography, bone marrow biopsy just to mention a few.
This method of classifying the cancer in type and stage is of great assistance to doctors when deciding on how a particular NHL will be progressing and what the resulting effect in the patient can be. It is of greatest importance to plan for the correct treatments and all information should be available before starting the treatment planning, for best possible treatment of the lymphoma cancer.
In this original stage, the cancer is typically confined to one region only, which is usually a lymph node and surrounding tissue.
If the cancer belongs to the second stage, it means that it has spread to two different places, typically a lymph node or an organ that is a part of the lymphatic system and another affected area that can be a different organ. Both the affected places are restricted to one side of the diaphragm, above or below.
This is when the limphoma cancer has spread to over and below the diaphragm. Also requiring one organ in the neighborhood of the lymph nodes.
The lymphoma cancer has in the fourth stage expanded outside of the lymph node system and will now affect at least one major organ (as well as one or two lymph nodes) including maybe also skin and bonemarow.
Classification of the non-Hodgkins lymphomas is done depending on several different criteria. One appropriate and simple grouping method is to divide the lymphomas into two major NHL groups, something that makes the choice of treatment somewhat easier:
Low grade (also called indolent) NHL has a slow progression development and usually results in no symptoms at all in the earlier stages and due to this they are not always spotted in their early stages. Even after these have been diagnosed, it is normal to hold back the treatment, maybe months or sometimes even for as long as years. When the treatment later starts, it normally has a high effect leading to quick shrkinking or complete removal of the lymphoma. There is then a period of no signs. This symptom free period is called the remission. Much later though, it is not that uncommon to see the cancer coming back for a second necessary treatment.
The cancers in the aggressive NHL group will grow at a much faster rate. These cansers also typically show more symptoms than what is seen with the relatively milder indolent NHL's and the aggressive cancers will normally call for immediate treatment. The description "aggressive" sounds very bad, but as a matter of fact, these lymphomias typically react very well on the treatment and therre is a very good chance that patients will reach remission. A chance that is actually higher than with the indolent NHL's.
When inspecting lymphomas magnified in a microscope, it is not always possible to see the difference between an indolent non-Hodgekin lymphomia and an aggresive cancer. For this reason, a tissue sample is always required. The normal way to do this is a biopsy of the lymph node which is then used as a sample via internal or external (needle based) surgery. There are other cases in which the diagnosis may be arrived at "by coincidence" - gastroscopy is one.
It is of great imporance to arrive at a non-Hodgin lymphoma classification that is correct, since treating lymphomia need to be done in very different ways for the different types of lymphoma (limphoma) cancer diseases.
Hodgekins cancer (Hotchkins disease) is one of the less common cancer forms that got its name after the British dr Hodgkins (Hodgins disease). Non-Hodgekins (non hotchkins) lymphomia cansers are instead the ones more frequently seen. The old division into Hodgins and non-Hotchekins is becoming out of fashion and is now getting replaced by a newer classification of the lymphomas centered on the use of tumor markers for lymphomias.
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