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The immune system is known as the security guard of our body. Infection-fighting cells known as lymphocytes are responsible for protecting our body against germs and cell changes that could make us ill. 

But what happens when part of the immune system itself gets infected?

Dr Tengku Ahmad Hidayat, our consultant internal medicine and clinical haematologist explains more about when our immune system’s fight against infections becomes in vein. (pun intended)

What is Lymphoma?

Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer that occurs in the lymphatic system, an essential part of the immune system. 

“While lymphoma is known to affect the lymph nodes, they may also be present in other organs such as the brain, liver or even the bone marrow,” said Dr Tengku.

Types of Lymphoma 

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There are two types of lymphocytes; T-Cells and B-Cells. In cases of lymphoma, one of these lymphocytes change and grow out of control, causing tumours in the lymph nodes.

While there are many types of lymphoma, the two main types are:

  • Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Non Hodgkin lymphoma

Similar to other types of cancer, in order to identify the type of lymphoma, a biopsy is needed.

Although CT scans or PET scans can give us hints of the type of lymphoma, doctors cannot completely commit to a lymphoma diagnosis based on imaging.

“It is important to note the type of lymphoma as each type is treated differently,” according to Dr Tengku.

Hodgkin Lymphoma

Hodgkin lymphoma is divided into two categories, which are:

  • Classical
  • Nodular Lymphocyte Predominant

“Based on incident reports, Hodgkin lymphoma is more common in men compared to women. There is also an increase in the incidence rate of lymphoma in patients during their twenties and eighties,” Dr Tengku mentioned.

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Non Hodgkin lymphoma is the most common type of lymphoma. Although many types of Non Hodgkin Lymphoma exist, they are categorised in two main ways :

  • Type of lymphocytes – Non Hodgkin lymphoma can develop from either B Cell or T Cell lymphocytes.  
  • Behaviour – Some types of Non Hodgkin lymphoma are very aggressive and grows very fast while others are indolent and sometimes take years to even notice.

Dr Tengku further clarifies, “Contrary to how they behave, treating indolent lymphoma can be more difficult as their slow growing nature does not respond to treatments that well.”

Signs and Symptoms of Lymphoma

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Symptoms of lymphoma include:

  • Painless swelling of the lymph nodes, commonly in the neck, armpit or groin
  • Unexplained fever caused by the disease itself or the low immune system caused by lymphoma
  • Unexplained itchiness
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Anaemia

Treatments

As mentioned by Dr Tengku, treatment for lymphoma is based on the type of lymphoma and also the condition of the patient.

Among the treatments available for lymphoma are:

Like most cancers, lymphoma is considered a treatable form of cancer with good outcome if detected early and treated promptly. 

 

Beacon Hospital is currently offering free consultation with our experienced haematologists. 

If you have any symptoms or if you are already diagnosed with lymphoma, click on the link above to get your first blood cancer consultation on us or schedule an appointment with us now!

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