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Non - Hodgkin's lymphoma

Posted Nov 10 2010 12:00am



Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is a malignant tumour that originates from the lymphatic system. 
Let's give a brief introduction about the lymphatic system:
It consists of lymphoid organs (as bone marrow, thymus, lymph nodes) and lymph vessels. When a malignant tumour arises from the lymphatic system, it is called Lymphoma. 
There are two forms: Hodgkin's lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Today we will talk about Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma as it is much common than Hodgkin's lymphoma.


What are the causes of Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma ?
The definite cause is unknown but it has been linked to some viruses and toxins as benzene and pesticides.

Now let's talk about a general simplified view of the mechanism of this cancer.

This cancer causes production of lots of abnormal lymphocytes. A normal lymphocyte has a life span but the abnormal one doesn't. These lymphocytes continue to grow and divide until they cause crowding of the lymph nodes. As a result, lymph nodes get enlarged.


Symptoms of Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma include:
- Painless enlarged lymph nodes (usually cervical or supra-clavicular nodes). 
Normally, lymph nodes are not felt. If you feel them, then they are enlarged.
(Here is an illustration of the sites of lymph nodes)
- Systemic symptoms as fever, night sweats and weight loss.
- Abdominal pain or swelling.

 Posterior auricular and posterior cervical adenopathy.(From Swartz MH: Textbook of Physical Diagnosis, 5th ed. Philadelphia, WB Saunders, 2006.)


What are the risk factors ?
Individuals who are old aged or taking immunosuppressive drugs or using insecticides are at a higher risk of developing Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.


Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is classified according to "The Working Formulation" into:
- Low grade lymphoma
- Intermediate grade lymphoma
- High grade lymphoma


The treatment depends on the histological findings. In general, it may include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, total neck irradiation.


Please note that not all enlarged lymph nodes are of malignant cause as there are other causes of lymph nodes enlargement. If you feel any lymph node in your body, let a doctor check it as early as possible.

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Last edited: 20/2/2012 


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