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Lymphoma: when your body gives up

When a person gets sick, there are several questions that may arise. Did they come in contact with someone who could have an infection? How will this affect your daily life? Is there a quick solution for your disease? Most likely, for most, there is a logical explanation for their sudden illness. But what happens when the same system that aims to fight diseases in the body is the problem?

The lymphatic system is the network of the fight against diseases of the organism, which includes lymph nodes, spleen, thymus, and bone marrow. Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system, which can affect these and other areas of the body.

The most common cause of lymphomas is the overproduction of certain types of white blood cells, called B lymphocytes, that help protect the body from bacteria and viruses.

The two main types are Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (or simply lymphoma), although there are also different subtypes of the disease.

In Hodgkin lymphoma, cancer cells are known as Reed-Sternberg cells, an abnormal type of B lymphocyte.

Non-Hodgkin types can grow and spread slowly (indolent) or rapidly (aggressive), and there are many different types, which It can make classification a challenge. Lymphoma can begin in almost any area and spread to other tissues and organs such as the liver.

Risk factors and symptoms

Some of the risk factors for lymphoma include being older and male, a diet high in red and fatty meats, or contracting the Epstein-Barr virus (Mononucleosis or “Mono”), tobacco use or exposure to radiation, certain types of pesticides, lead or asbestos.

Lymphoma can occur in people with healthy immune systems or in patients whose immune system is compromised, such as those who have AIDS or those who have undergone an organ transplant.

“Those with lymphoma may experience symptoms such as painless swelling of lymph nodes in the neck, armpits or groin, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, fever, night sweats, itchy skin, rash, enlarged liver or spleen or counts low blood, ”explains Dr. John Greskovich, a radiation oncologist at Cleveland Clinic Florida.“ However, those symptoms do not automatically mean you have lymphoma.


The diagnosis of lymphoma involves a physical examination with a focus on the lumps (lymph nodes), the size of the liver and spleen, and anything out of the ordinary. Blood tests that measure red and white blood cells and liver and kidney functions, and bone marrow aspiration and biopsy may also be necessary. If lymphoma is detected, more tests are done to identify which specific lymphoma is present and how far it has advanced, a key part in determining the right type of treatment.

“Treatment options for lymphoma include chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or radiotherapy, depending on the individual case. A hematopathologist will perform special studies of lymphoma cells to determine which of the more than 60 subtypes is present by immunotyping and cytogenetic tests. The location of the lymphoma may affect the type of treatment recommended Stem cell transplants can also be used in relapsing or refractory lymphomas when other types of treatment have not worked, each patient will meet with a multidisciplinary team of hematologists, radiation therapists and possibly surgeons to determine the best course of action,” says Greskovich.

Cleveland Clinic Florida is part of a community cancer research program established by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The program includes NCI-sponsored clinical trials and pharmaceutical-sponsored trials, all carefully selected to offer expanded treatment options. Integration and collaboration with Cleveland Clinic in Ohio provide a unique opportunity for patients in Florida, providing the latest findings in cancer prevention and treatment research to the national and international community.

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