How to understand Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma: A Cancer Of the Immune System
In order to understand this disease, it is better to know more about the lymphatic system first. There are a number of lymph nodes all over our body. These nodes are filled with a certain type of white blood cells, called lymphocytes. Lymph nodes fight off bacteria and other substances that are harmful to the body by trapping and eliminating them. The human body has several lymph nodes found in the abdomen, chest, neck, groin, and underarm areas.
When it so happens that the lymphatic cells start to divide too fast and too much, the tendency is that they will overcrowd. As a result, the lymphoid tissues are destroyed and diseases can easily invade the body. And the body's immune system fails. This is the condition called lymphoma.
What is Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma?
Lymphoma is a disease that starts in a person's lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is actually a part of a human body's immune system. It plays a big role in the fight against diseases and infections invading the body. There are two types of lymphoma – the Hodgkin's disease and the Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. The only difference between the two is the presence of the Reed-Sternberg cells in Hodgkin's disease that aren't found in Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
The Symptoms of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma has the following symptoms:
- The presence of swollen, but relatively painless lymph nodes in the groin, neck, or armpit
- Inexplicable weight loss
- Fever and temperature changes
- Night Sweats
- Chest pain, coughing, and breathing troubles
- Chronic tiredness and general weakness
- Abdominal pains, swelling, and fullness
The Treatment of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that isn't showing any symptoms at all doesn't require treatment right away. What it needs is close monitoring so that the treatment process can commence the moment the symptoms show. When the symptoms do show, the three most common treatment methods used are chemotherapy, biological therapy, and radiation therapy.
1. Chemotherapy – This is a type of treatment wherein drugs are administered intravenously to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapeutic drugs or agents in a certain dosage are usually injected into the person through the use of a Hickman line, Port-a-Cath, or PICC line. There are also certain agents that are administered orally.
2. Biological Therapy – This therapy is a treatment strategy that aims to treat and restore the person's health by stimulating the body's innate ability to fight cancer cells, as well as known infections and diseases. Biological therapy is sometimes interchangeably called as biotherapy or immunotherapy.
3. Radiation Therapy – Radiation therapy is used in more advance cases, usually Stage I or II Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. This method uses high-energy radiation coming from gamma rays, neutrons, x-rays, and similar sources, so as to kill cancer-causing cells and shrink tumors.
The Cure Rate for Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
The most common type of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma is the Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma. This actually accounts for as many as 33% of all the cases recorded. This disease is common in patients 60 years old and above. The cure rate for this type is 40%-50% after therapy.
Small lymphocytic lymphoma occurs in 24% of patients. For this type, patients generally live a normal life after 10 years of therapy. Follicular lymphoma is the third most common type of Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Patients with this disease have 60%-70% chances of surviving after 5 years of therapy.
Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is the most severe level the disease can get. It means that the lymphoma had already spread outside the lymph nodes and had traveled to the vital organs such as the liver and lungs. It could also affect the skeletal system, particularly the bone marrow. The tumors related to the disease could grow as big as 10 centimeters in radius.
Patients with Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma need more specialized treatment as they have a response rate of only 44%. And within the 5-year survival model of people with Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, there's a 40% chance of having a relapse and only 26% of full survival.