What is lymphoma?

The lymphatic system is part of the immune system which defends the body against infection. A clear fluid called lymph flows through the lymph vessels and it contains white blood cells called lymphocytes. Lymphoma is a general name for cancer of the tissue of the lymphatic system where there is a large number of abnormal clones of lymphocytes causing swelling of lymph nodes or involvement of other organs. This can disrupt the immune system and reduce a person’s ability to fight infections. The lymph nodes can also become swollen, forming painless lumps or tumours.

Risk factors of lymphoma

  • Past diagnosis of certain severe viral infections that suppress your immune system.
    • For example, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV).
    • A suppressed or weakened immune system can lead to a higher risk.
  • Patients with organ transplants and on immuno suppressive drugs.
    • A suppressed or weakened immune system can lead to a higher risk.
  • A history of cancer and prior cancer treatment with chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
  • Frequent exposure to radiation or chemicals such as:
    • Pesticides
    • Solvents
    • Fertilisers
  • A family history of lymphoma.

Signs and symptoms of lymphoma

  • Painless and enlarged swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, armpit, groin or abdomen.
  • Unexplained fevers.
  • Drenching night sweats even in cool weather.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Patchy red skin and itching without an obvious cause.

Most lymphoma patients do not have any known risk factors. The symptoms may be caused by a number of other unrelated medical problems and may not indicate the presence of cancer, but if any of the above symptoms persists or is bothering you, do consult your doctor.

Brief facts

  • Screening for lymphoma is currently not recommended.
  • Treatment for lymphoma includes: Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy.

Ref: S13